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Last 50 reviews
 Life by JONO album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.13 | 11 ratings

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Life
Jono Crossover Prog

Review by Rune2000
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars After two great melodic records as a band, Jono have managed to get some acknowledgement for their sound. After hearing the news that the band had signed with Frontiers Records, I felt a bit skeptical on the decision knowing that this particular label is usually keen on letting the artists keep their retro sound intact as much as possible (see some of the latest releases by Asia, Boston, Dokken, Foreigner, Mr. Big, Toto etc.). Seeing that Jono is still a relatively new band, there is still quite a bit of their style development left for them to uncover. Thus being signed to a record label that expects them to keep a specific style might not be the best thing for the band. This was of course pure speculation on my part, luckily this release turned out to be another keeper!

Life is another great piece of the puzzle in the Jono discography. The material here might not be as eclectic as on the previous releases. Most of the tracks are either slow and epic or heavy and mid-tempo but that might just be because of the frame of mind that Johan Norrby and the rest of the band were in at the time of the recording. I also noticed that the compositions on this record are slightly longer that previously with the average track length of roughly 5 minutes.

Sailors kicks things of with a mid-tempo guitar riff and the overall structure of the composition reminds me of the previous album opener Man Of Misery, which is a nice way of saying that Jono is back and the band is sounding as good as ever. Crown begins with some unexpected electronica sounds until the song returns to the more traditional Jono track filled with its share of twists and turns. No Return is where the band really kicks this album into a higher gear as we're introduced to one of the most majestic vocal performances from Johan Norrby and the overall instrumental arrangement really highlights his performance.

Downside is another peak from the album as the composition goes through many twists before delivering one of the strongest choruses of the album. The guitar riff, which dominates most of this track, is highly addictive and you'll probably catch yourself humming it a few days after hearing it. The rest of the compositions are all quite enjoyable and well-paced but I feel like they never top the two highlights that I've mentioned previously. To be honest, I think that a few songs like To Be Near You and especially Trust could have been trimmed just a little bit. But this doesn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this album. I highly recommend Life to everyone who has enjoyed Requiem and Silence. This album is definitely a continuation of those two albums but there is definitely a feeling that Jono are beginning to uncover some new ground for themselves and it wouldn't surprise me if their next outing is going to be a career defying masterpiece. We'll just have to wait and see!

***** star songs: No Return (5:11) Downside (7:26)

**** star songs: Sailors (4:01) Crown (5:45) On The Other Side (3:56) To Be Near You (6:56) My Love (4:52) The Magician (4:55) Trust (7:35) The March (5:05)

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 Is This The Life We Really Want ? by WATERS, ROGER album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.76 | 152 ratings

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Is This The Life We Really Want ?
Roger Waters Crossover Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars One of the first things I noticed during my first spin of this album is how old Roger's voice is sounding these days. Not surprising I suppose given he's 74 years old. I felt the same about Bowie's last album "Blackstar" and in both cases I like them. I wasn't surprised to hear how angry he still is about the injustices that go on in this World, I'd like to think that all of us should feel this way and stand against these things. So he touches on a lot of topics in this very political album. Another surprise was how much this sounds like PINK FLOYD, mostly "The Wall" which again shouldn't be surprising given he's been touring the World playing that particular album live. But yeah I love the many samples he's put on this recording. There's lots of "F" bombs on here to get the desired result although I'd rather he hadn't.

Another unexpected surprise on here are the final three songs which are all blended together like one suite. On this suite Roger sings about love and believe me when I say this, this is from left field and very surprising to me. I believe Roger getting closure on his Dad's death in WWII (he found out where, when and how his Dad died) has helped him to heal a great deal and in turn feel a lot of regrets about his treatment of former wives and girlfriends, offsprings and band-mates etc. Let me just write down some of the lyrics from that suite. "But when I met you, that part of me died. Bring me a bowl to bathe her feet in. Bring me my final cigarette. It would be better by far to die in her arms than to linger in a lifetime of regrets." Gulp. That void left by the death of his father was filled by an uncompromising desire to be rich. And one he fulfilled through PINK FLOYD even though it meant that friendships and marriages and families would be left in ruins after it's wake.

I would rate this album as good as my other two favourites from him in "Amused To Death" and "The Final Cut" which I consider a Waters album. The emotion on "The Final Cut" can't be surpassed in my opinion and it's an album that should be played every Remembrance Day. My favourite section of "Is This The Life We Really Want?" is the last half of the title track and the following song "Bird In A Gale" that it blends into, just the stark contrast is so impressive. The lyrics are incredible really throughout this album as he touches on so many current events usually involving the USA not so surprisingly. So can we by standing up against all the negative subjects related here stop them from happening in our World. Not a chance. We should still do it of course but I would argue that like Roger the astonishing amount of kids today growing up without Dads is an epidemic and believe me when I say it affects society big time and the behaviour of those kids right into adulthood.

"When We Were Young" opens with mumblings that sound distant but they get louder and clearer as it plays out as we hear him talking about when he was young. "Deja Vu" is a sad song with Roger contemplating what he would do differently if he was God. A little tongue in cheek I think as God isn't a super human he's so infinitely beyond even what we could imagination. Strummed guitar and vocals with the strings swelling before a minute. Samples after 2 1/2 minutes with strings and piano.

"The Last Refugee" opens with samples of multiple people talking about the weather etc. as the music builds. He starts to sing before 1 1/2 minutes and there's some emotion in that voice after 2 minutes. orchestral sounds before 3 1/2 minutes then seagulls can be heard to end it. "Picture That" certainly has some amazing lyrics that all of us would agree with minus maybe the "F" bombs. Guitar and a serious sound to start. Very FLOYD-like as Roger starts to sing. It even kicks into a FLOYD groove with the bass and drums before this uplifting sound arrives changing the mood. An experimental calm before 3 minutes is brief as themes are repeated.

"Broken Bones" opens with the sound of a loon which is very popular here in Canada as strummed guitar and vocals take over. Some strings too. A moving track with those strings and Roger's understated vocals. Check out when he starts to sing with passion after 2 minutes briefly. Such emotion. Back to the passionate vocals 3 1/2 minutes in as the music rises. "Is This The Life we Really Want?" opens with a sample of Trump complaining about CNN before a relaxed beat with bass and guitar takes over. Reserved vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. Then samples of what sounds like a riot are distant sounding after 3 minutes as Roger talks about the tragedies of this modern World. Emotional stuff. It blends into the next song.

"Bird In A Cage" which is my favourite. The way the music suddenly turns very powerful is chilling and moving. Steady drums and sample after sample of people speaking. A powerful sound before 1 1/2 minutes as Roger comes in vocally. Passion is the word. Before 4 minutes we get an urgent rhythm with church bells and sampled words that come and go. Lots of synths along with vocals and samples. Next up is "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" which has a slow beat with piano and laid back vocals. Bass too as Roger's vocals become more passionate at times. Strings join in followed by samples and a horn after 3 minutes then the vocals return.

"Smell The Roses" is where I don't really like how Water's sings. And it sounds kind of commercial in part because of the vocals I think. Suddenly before 2 minutes samples take over. So cool and much better to my ears. We hear dogs barking madly then this soaring guitar comes in ala Gilmour before 3 1/2 minutes then the vocals return. "Wait For Her" is the start of that three piece suite. Piano and strummed guitar as reserved vocals join in. It does turn fuller as vocals continue and contrasts will continue. Seagulls can be heard to end it with strummed guitar as it blends into the next tune.

"Oceans Apart" continues with the seagulls and strummed guitar, waves too as meaningful reserved vocals come in. It blends into "Part Of Me Died" where piano joins the strummed guitar. Fragile vocals follow then a beat. A fuller sound before 2 1/2 minutes. Such emotion as he sings those words I quoted in the intro. It ends like it began after a pause with distant mumbled words that can't be understood.

Man this is such a good album and I wasn't expecting it I must admit. I hope Roger gets the peace he so needs even late in life. And thanks for the amazing music including of course the incredible music of PINK FLOYD. I'm really hoping there's more of this from Roger in the future.

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 Le Survivant by ORION album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.41 | 34 ratings

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Le Survivant
Orion Symphonic Prog

Review by majoprog

5 stars I liked the 3rd Orion album "La Face Visible" but I admit that this new album seems to me even more successful and better product. This record deserves several plays to fully discover all the finesse hidden in it; Eight tracks including an instrumental make up this 4th album with talented guest musicians from other horizons such as jazz. Besides the instrumental composition "Cumulostratus" is in this style.It is based on a beautiful acoustic guitar and a piano solo of beauty.Mention very well also in the rhythmic section bass / drums that brings a solid foundation to the group. Feel free to listen to this new album with attention. Orion is certainly one of the best French progressive rock bands.

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 Thoughts From A Stone by COMA CLUSTER VOID album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Thoughts From A Stone
Coma Cluster Void Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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

— First review of this album —
4 stars After becoming one of underground metal's most up and coming revered tech death bands of 2016 with their debut album "Mind Cemeteries," the multi-national COMA CLUSTER VOID unleash their second offering to the world of sonic sadomasochism seekers with THOUGHTS FROM A STONE which while at running length of only 21 minutes and 40 seconds could possibly be thought of as an EP but in reality i haven't seen any reference to it as such by the band themselves so despite clocking in a roughly half the time span as their debut, i would have to assume that this is in fact their second album. While the time length has been shortened, the number of musical cast members has gone up by two. While the five members on the debut all make a reprise, they have also expanded their roles beyond their retrospective instruments or vocal duties. This meaning that there is more of a classical music approach in the intro and other segments strewn throughout that find bassist Sylvia Hinz also playing recorder and guitarist John Strieder tearing it up on the violoncello. Two guests appear with Alexa Renger on violin and Anthony Lipari adding yet more guttural death growls and other vocal utterances.

Once again COMA CLUSTER VOID are on a mission to create the harshest and most atonal dissonant din there is to be experienced. While mostly centered on the bizarre surreal tech death soundscapes of Gorguts' "Obscura" for their source of proggy inspiration with flurries of zigzagging math rock time signatures run amok, the heavy bombast also brings the kings of dissonant djent-fueled orotundity, Meshuggah to mind but it's those slowed down creepy jarring atonal chords and arpeggiations that always point the finger to Deathspell Omega's most demanding listens. While not quite as murky and layered as bands like Portal and Pyrrhon, the distortion that bleeds to infinity adds an extra layer of tension that only becomes ratcheted up to the ultimate creepy climaxes. While the tech death metal parts are fairly similar to the first album, what really sets this one apart is the use of the chamber rock classical music pieces which start to sound like Kayo Dot's most experimental earlier albums however it's the semi-spoken declarative poetic proses uttered by both male and female members that gives it a sense of urgency and unique flavor.

Personally i find THOUGHTS FROM A STONE to expand fairly well from the debut as it takes all the extreme elements set forth and adds new layers of surreality, brutality and technical complexity which all conspire to unleash a startling spine-chilling sonicscape of extremes. Perhaps my favorite is the ending "We Are As Low" which is a jangling distortionfest mess of chords, eerie atmospheric dread and guttural growls trading off with Diamanda Galas-esque types of litanies of horror and anguish. This is the type of complexity that requires acclamation as it is the equivalent of transversing an oxygen-starved environment while climbing Mt Everest. The elements exposed here are built upon the complexities of the high tech arts that preceded and will surely leave the uninitiated into this cult of chaos utterly bereft of any connection to a musical experience whatsoever. Proggy as hell and brutally extreme to the max yet an almost undetectable thread of beauty that stitches the whole thing together. Another winner in my book. COMA CLUSTER VOID is the real deal.

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 Messages from Afar: First Contact by KARFAGEN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.24 | 45 ratings

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Messages from Afar: First Contact
Karfagen Symphonic Prog

Review by proghaven

4 stars To begin with: amazing, fantastic, absolutely superb musicianship of the guitarist. This is the first impression from the album. The music bears a faint resemblance to Space Circus and maybe also another Japanese prog fusion band, Kennedy. Unfortunately, when they sing (what occurs, let's say, not too often), they sing in English. There's nothing to be done, I strongly prefer native languages, my apologies. However their English is good (I asked specialists). Not sure that Karfagen provides a correct idea of Ukrainian prog scene/school as a whole. In other words, not sure that Karfagen is representative enough for Ukrainian prog. But anyway this band is very interesting. Golden Fields of Rye reminds me not of real fields of rye (which, I believe, are indeed as golden in Ukraine as in my home village near Borovsk) but rather of water-flooded green fields of rice in Karakalpakstan (before the shrinking of Aral). The final 16-minute track is expected to be an epic but in actual fact breaks the prog standards for constructing epic suites appearing to be no more than just a very long - and very enjoyable - instrumental piece.

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 Peter Gabriel 2 [Aka: Scratch] by GABRIEL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.99 | 484 ratings

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Peter Gabriel 2 [Aka: Scratch]
Peter Gabriel Crossover Prog

Review by poito

4 stars 3.5 Second release in PG's solo career. Those were times when recording techniques were going through notable quality improvements. We all remember the poor quality of the early Genesis tapes in charisma. This album recording is much improved compared to #1, the music however has reached less reconnaissance. I think the composition is still superb, but maybe the surprise is gone and the lucky melodies don't get the heights in the 1st. Possibly, part of the smaller punch is the poor attention given to bass and drum section. PG was a fan of percussion. Here it is dull. There are some intimate themes, with simpler music like Indigo and Mother Violence, soft piano ballads of great sensibility, but others are complex enough, as those with Fripp at the guitar White Shadow and Exposure; some were highly acclaimed, as On the Air, a classic in PG's career, and D.I.Y, a nice rhythmic that visits many live shows. Other highlights is A Wonderful Day In A One-Way World that also hit the streets. In general, and spite of a couple of weaker themes, I would say this album requires a few turns before the essences show up.

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 Messages from Afar: First Contact by KARFAGEN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.24 | 45 ratings

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Messages from Afar: First Contact
Karfagen Symphonic Prog

Review by Harvey77777

4 stars Of all Antony Kalugins projects Karfagen is my favourite mostly because I love instrumentals and this album certainly doesn't disappoint, there are vocals at the beginning and ending of the album but they are very much integrated into the music. There is a lot of Camel influenced keyboard and guitar interplay and you can see Hackett influences as well plus there is some great saxophone, this is Prog at its best, the guitar can be a little overbearing at times but is played very well. There aren't any weak tracks and it's hard to pick a favourite.

Apparently there will be a part two which will be from Antony's Sunchild project so will have vocals and the Sunchild style, it will be interesting to hear a vocal story behind the concept.

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 Peter Gabriel 1 [Aka: Car] by GABRIEL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.56 | 595 ratings

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Peter Gabriel 1 [Aka: Car]
Peter Gabriel Crossover Prog

Review by poito

5 stars 4.5 It is hard to know who the spirit of early GENESIS was. Probably there were several. Peter Gabriel no doubt was one of them; he was not just a front-man dressing in funny costumes and a genius singer. He had a major vein for composition. This is his first solo project and we already have eternal themes as Solsbury Hill, Humdrum and Here Comes the Flood. Obviously, the style quickly departed from Genesis', though some themes still remind a bit of it, as in Moribund the Burgermeister or the Slowburn. PG flirts also with other styles such as blues in Waiting for the One, or experiments for the future as in Down the Dolce Vita. Although his music is much lighter, let's call it Glam-Prog, no doubt PG gave mainstream music a touch of sensibility and creativity that was so necessary. When giants such as PG, Brian Eno, Bryan Ferry, or Fish come to mainstream, all others realize they were just party entertainers. Banks and Rutherford made the big mistake of their lives not making things easier for PG to stay, and though we won a bunch of great PG albums, can you imagine a few more albums by GENESIS' PG lineup???

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 Rarities by ELOY album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1991
3.06 | 27 ratings

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Rarities
Eloy Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars While some of these tracks were indeed rarities at the time of this release in the early 1990s, most have those since appeared as bonus tracks. For instance, "Daybreak" and "On the Road", now available as adjunct pieces on "Inside" (1973), seem to occupy the not insignificant gulf between "Eloy" (1971) and that superb outing, being DEEP PURPLE influenced but with a slightly cosmic bent. "Daybreak" even sounds like it has some real strings to offset the chugging organ driven theme. "On the Road" includes vocals but is otherwise not dissimilar, with more predominant lead guitars.

For those who prefer ELOY's mid period glory days (1976-1982), the version of "Child Migration" is an antecedent to the one that appeared on "Colours". While not nearly as compelling, for indeed the fully formed version is one of ELOY's masterpieces, it still showcases the band's songwriting acumen at that point in time, and is different enough to be considered on its own merits. Along with "Let the Sun Rise in Your Brain", it is now available as bonus track to "Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes". "Let the Sun Rise.." is a superb flute dominated song that reflects its lineage to "Colours". Another one from the same era is "Wings of Vision", a synth pop tune that is now a bonus track on "Colours". It appears here in 2 barely different versions, and probably won't excite many, although it's certainly no worse than what contemporaneous GENESIS was churning out, which isn't exactly high praise I know.

It seems that, even at the time, the record company suits had to scramble to find true rarities to pad this out to 45 minutes, and they failed, as "Horizons", "Illuminations", and "Sunset" are all extracted verbatim from "Colours" while "Silhouette" sounds like a single version of the song from the same album. "Time to Turn" and the abbreviated "Through a Somber Galaxy" are from the excellent "Time to Turn". "The Stranger" is oddly from "Metromania", a 1984 release that is not nearly as rare as its fans. Luckily, it sounds somewhat better removed from its compatriots.

I suppose some ELOY fans might covet the cachet of ownership here, particularly in vinyl form. This also isn't the worst place to acquire the taste for ELOY, although I would still recommend "Chronicles" if you want to go the compilation route for initiation to this legendary band.

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 Ride The Lightning by METALLICA album cover Studio Album, 1984
4.07 | 551 ratings

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Ride The Lightning
Metallica Prog Related

Review by poito

2 stars As usual with this band, the themes are flat-boring, a smashing fast beat and a guitar riff. It is difficult to find any musical value, anything new, original, or creative. It is obvious the band does not have such capabilities. It is probably the less creative band in the heavy metal scene. In this album, at least we may find some effort. Even, some interesting themes, like the For Whom The Bell Tolls and the almost acoustic Fade to Black. No fireworks anyway. I have this idea that Metallica has been included in PA because some consider it had an influence on Dream Theater, a truly prog metal band. That is a very poor reason.

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 Master Of Puppets by METALLICA album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.09 | 674 ratings

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Master Of Puppets
Metallica Prog Related

Review by poito

1 stars The difference between heavy metal and death metal is already in the name. Death metal kills music, the bands just want to say loud they are angry and we are modfok. Is that a reason to be in PA? Even the worst album of Iron Maiden, White Snake, Savatage, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc etc has more music inside. I grew up with heavy as most people did, and well, whoever says this MOP is at the same level of score as masterpieces like Fragile, Selling England by The Pound, Machine Head, or In the Court is simply an illiterate. I used to be an illiterate myself, but I was educated by friends, and thousands of hours listening about everything. And when the time came I took care of not letting my children to listen to Sesame Street or Smurf music, so to keep their young brains detoxified, but I was also very choosy when feeding them with heavy.

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 Sehr Kosmisch, Ganz Progisch by WESERBERGLAND album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.22 | 10 ratings

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Sehr Kosmisch, Ganz Progisch
Weserbergland Krautrock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is the project of Ketil Einarsen probably most known being part of WHITE WILLOW and JAGA JAZZIST but he's played on so many albums over the years. And he's enlisted many of those musicians he's played with to help him out here. Ketil wrote all the music and produced this recording, while playing flute, clarinet, keys, guitar and he adds programmed sounds. His buddy in WHITE WILLOW Jacob Holm-Lupo adds bass and guitar but he also mixed and mastered this album. Many of these musicians have played together. In fact five of these guys play in THE OPIUM CARTEL. Mattias Olsson from ANGLAGARD fame and more adds drums and he's very important to the sound here. Stephen Bennett adds keys and he's from HENRY FOOL, of course there's Lars Fredrik Froislie from WOBBLER adding synths and clavinet. How about Einer Baldursson the guitarist for GOSTA BERLINGS SAGA but also he's played with WHITE WILLOW and NECROMONKEY.

So a Krautrock album from Norway? Well Ketil was introduced to Krautrock in the 90's and fell in love with it. The band's name comes from a very beautiful area of Germany where the mountains and that river create gorgeous scenes. The music reminds me of HARMONIA, LA DUSSELDORF along with some CLUSTER and Eno influences I believe. Lots of higher pitched synths and keys but really the more I have listened to this the more intrigued and impressed I become. It's all instrumental but for some brief vocal melodies from Ketil. This is a homage to the 70's Krautrock scene. What an interesting album and there's so much talent on display here and so many connections.

"Tanzen Und Springen" gets us started and it's percussion and drums at first before a full sound arrives with guitar, keys and more. HARMONIA comes to mind here. It settles down after 2 minutes with bass and more before kicking back in. High pitched sounds after 3 1/2 minutes followed by an interesting sounding guitar solo. I do like that bass 5 minutes in. Drums and percussion like the intro follow after 5 1/2 minutes. A change before 7 minutes as spacey sounds dominate before some atmosphere adds depth. A full sound returns before 8 minutes with guitar, drums and much more. Percussion ends it.

"Das Trinklied Vom Jammer Der Erde" opens with experimental sounds. Interesting stuff as a beat starts to slowly build. Faint sitar can be heard eventually then some dark and melancholic synths arrive changing the mood. It turns louder after 2 1/2 minutes and the drums speed up as we hear mostly drums and synths here. It slows down a minute later before picking back up before 4 minutes. Lots of drums and synths once again. There's so much going on after 5 1/2 minutes. Incredible! Flute before 7 minutes with drums and synths. A calm a minute later as different sounds come and go until it kicks in with power. Nice. Check out that bass before 9 1/2 minutes, then those high pitched synths come to the fore. Love the drumming and guitar before 11 minutes. A dark and spacey calm takes over before 12 minutes and it becomes experimental with some avant Krautrock stuff to the end.

"Kunst Der Fuge" opens with light keys and spacey sounds. Drums and deep sounds join in just after a minute. It then picks up in pace, organ too. That drumming is relentless. Some brief vocal melodies after 3 1/2 minutes but the drums and synths continue to lead the way. Spacey synths 8 1/2 minutes in with the drums and bass standing out. The guitar comes in late then electronics ends it.

"Tristrant" is my favourite. Drums to start as spacey sounds join in. Bass and synths will arrive as well in this catchy soundscape. Man this reminds me of HARMONIA. Love the sound 2 minutes in, it's quite moving for some reason. A change before 3 minutes as it all stops and horns kick in. Back to that previous sound rather quickly though. More of that moving section before 5 minutes. The horns are back 7 minutes in. there's so much going on at this point but it will wind down to the end.

A solid 4 stars and an album that I'll get a lot of mileage out of given how unique it sounds. Well done!

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 ...And Justice For All by METALLICA album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.92 | 561 ratings

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...And Justice For All
Metallica Prog Related

Review by poito

1 stars 0 star actually. Don't know what is this doing here. I mean, are we prog? Where is prog or anything related to prog in this band? I certainly do not understand the inclusion of famous bands in PA just because they are popular. It must be a question of money-makers,' again. Always there, always everywhere. Don't you realize that albums like this that contains less than nothing in terms of inspiration, creativity, virtuosity, or anything is scored at the same level as all-time masterpieces? Who opened this door? This band is a factory product, a leftover of the disc-industry era, a bunch of hairy bodies scratching guitars, with less musical sense than a snail.

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 At The Sound Of The Bell by PAVLOV'S DOG album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.03 | 130 ratings

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At The Sound Of The Bell
Pavlov's Dog Crossover Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nº 151

Pavlov's Dog is an American band often compared to Rush, not so much for their style of music, which is more art rock and less progressive than Rush's music, which is also more heavy, but because the voice of their vocalist. The unique voice of David Surkamp often is compared to the voice of Geddy Lee, the lead vocalist and bassist of Rush. Despite I accept that there are many similarities with both voices, I sincerely think they are two substantially different voices.

'At The Sound Of The Bell' is their second studio album and was released in 1975. Their second and last album in the 70's, was a lighter and less powerful effort then their excellent debut album 'Pampered Menial'. But, anyway, 'At The Sound Of The Bell' is saved, generally, by strong songwritting and tasty arrangements, in the vein of their debut album.

The line up on the album is David Surkamp (lead vocals, acoustic and veleno guitars), Steve Scorfina (lead guitar), Rick Stockton (bass guitar), David Hamilton (keyboards), Doug Rayburn (mellotron, bass and percussion), Thomas Nickeson (acoustic guitar and harmonies) and Mike Safron (percussion). In relation to the line up of the first album, Siegfried Carver (violin, viola and vitar) left the group. In addition to this band's change, a handful of guest artists were invited to participate on the album, of which deserve special mention the jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker, the King Crimson's drummer Bill Bruford and the Roxy Music's saxophonist Andy MacKay.

'At The Sound Of The Bell' has nine tracks. The first track 'She Came Shining' written by Surkamp and Rayburn is a very pretty melodic song that shows a more progressive musical instrumental arrangements than the most of the songs of their debut previous studio album. This is a good song but it doesn't add anything special or new to the album. The second track 'Standing Here With You (Megan's Song)' written by Surkamp is a very calm and pretty ballad with good musical quality. It's an acoustic song with beautiful piano, violin and acoustic guitar works, very well sung by Surkamp. The third track 'Mersey' written by Surkamp and Scorfina represents another calm and pretty ballad. This is almost an acoustic track. It has a good guitar work and it has also a good saxophone solo. It's also a good song but as happened with the first track, I can't see anything special on it. The fourth track 'Valkerie' written by Surkamp is a very good song. Finally, we have on the album a really great song in the vein of many of the songs of their debut album. It has nice piano, flute and mellotron works, and it has also a very interesting chorus. This is one of my three favourite songs on the album. The fifth track 'Try To Hang On' written by Surkamp is a very short song and like some of other tracks on the album it has nothing special to mention on it. This is a song with some musical mixture of rock and jazz. The final result is, undoubtedly, a well played song. The sixth track 'Gold Nuggets' written by Surkamp represents the second best song on the album. It's also a song in the same vein of 'Pampered Menial', but, for me, is even better than 'Valkerie'. This is a fantastic melodic song that could have been part, like 'Valkerie', of their debut studio work. It deserves special mention the surprising use of a mandolin on the song. The seventh track 'She Breaks Like A Morning Sky' written by Surkamp and Rayburn is another song with some jazz influence, basically because how the use of the bass and the saxophone on it. The final result is a very pretty and nice song. The eighth track 'Early Morning On' written by Surkamp and Rayburn is, at my taste, a very beautiful and enjoyable song. It has some very interesting musical arrangements too. Despite be a vulgar song without anything special, the final effect on me, is a nice track with gentle music to listen to. The ninth track 'Did You See Him Cry' written by Surkamp and Rayburn is, in my humble opinion, the best song on the album and represents also the only truly progressive track on it. This is a fantastic song with abrupt musical passages, very melodic and with several rhythm changes all over the track. It has also a fantastic mellotron work. This is, for me, the best and the most perfect way to Pavlov's Dog finish their second studio album.

Conclusion: As I wrote before when I reviewed 'Pampered Menial', in the distant 70's the progressive rock music was essentially a European phenomenon, mainly a British phenomenon. So, when some American progressive rock bands like Kansas, Starcastle, Blue Oyster Cult and Pavlov's Dog appeared, soon I tried to know them. Curiously, my first purchase of those bands, in those times, was precisely 'At The Sound Of The Bell'. But however and unfortunately, 'At The Sound Of The Bell' is an album much lower, in terms of musical quality, than 'Pampered Menial', their debut. Anyway, we can't really say this is a bad album. Still, I must may say that I became some disappointed with it because almost all the songs on it are somehow vulgar with the exception of 'Valkerie', 'Gold Nuggets' and 'Did You See Him Cry'. However, if you know already and you like 'Pampered Menial', worth buy this album especially because of those three songs, mainly due to 'Did You See Him Cry' which is, in my humble opinion, the best song ever wrote by them on both albums. However, if you don't have any of these albums, the right thing to do is to buy 'Pampered Menial'.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 The Ferryman's Curse by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.82 | 18 ratings

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The Ferryman's Curse
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars I had to wait quite a while to actually hear this album properly as I needed some scar tissue removed from my left ear and sufficient time for the procedure to heal. I only hoped that this album, along with several others, was worth the wait.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Ferryman's Curse by the Strawbs, while not being a great album, was indeed a very good one. New keyboard man Dave Bainbridge, on loan form the prog group IONA, brings composing skills as well as multi keyboards and additional electric and acoustic guitar to the Strawbs' arsenal. Super drummer Tony Fernandez ("Thunder Wrists" to his friends) returns to the fold in place of Rod Coombes. The ever ready Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk return on lead guitar and bass respectively.

Producer Chris Tsangarides does an excellent job of keeping old Dave Cousin's voice from croaking and, in fact, most of the material is almost spoken at times, so Dave seems well aware of his vocal limitations these days and this album seems all the better for it. Cousins is an accomplished enough songwriter to reign in his voice while still composing an engaging song.

The album starts with an a nice orchestral instrumental titled, appropriately enough, "In The Beginning". that places the listener in the proper frame of mind while slightly telegraphing what to expect from the present incarnation of this famous prog band. The short 2 minute instrumental merges easily with the song "The Nails From The Hands Of Christ" which is quite stunning with it's "Another Brick In The Wall" walking bass lines and all manner of sampled mellotron-like strings, flutes, etc., from Bainbridge (as Ken Levine correctly pointed out in his review of this album.) Bainbridge always manages to sound reverent but never retro, a rare gift for a for someone in the newer end of prog rock and makes for a very subtle but essential contribution to this album's sound.

The follow up song titled "The Song Of Infinite Sadness" would be pretentious is it was composed and performed by any other artist than the Strawbs. So identified with this type of slow melancholic acoustic based ballad, its as if the Strawbs are paying homage to themselves. The equally slow paced " The Familiarity Of Old Lovers" finds Cousins in his lyrical element where the old boy can wax lyrical about his past, all the while hidden in allusions, while Lambert and Bainbridge add a stunning twin lead guitar coda to this wonderful song.

"When The Spirit Moves" is, for me, the high point of the album as it's one of those great transcendent Strawbs' songs that evokes the sentiment of past classic Strawbs' songs like "Benedictus" and "Lay Down". The semi choral effect of Lambert and Cronk matched against Cousins' wonderfully engaging yet simple acoustic guitar chords reaches a dramatic climax with Bainbridge's soaring keys, Fernandez's elegant drumming and Lambert's engaging electric guitar leads.

"The Ten Commandments" by Lambert does keep the semi spiritual vibe going even if it seems like a Slow Hand era Eric Clapton track with it's bluesy riffing, hard luck lyrics and stabbing organ. It seems that this out of place track would have been a nice palette cleanser had the following songs been as good as the album's first five.

Another good but short instrumental "The Reckoning" presages the albums' title track. "The Ferryman's Curse" is a follow up of sorts to "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" from 1970's Dragonfly album. While well played by all, especially Lambert and Cronk, who give the song some balls, this type of Strawbs' song with extensive verbiage was never a treat for me, but lovers of Dragonfly might find it essential. "Bat's And Swallows" is more upbeat but not engaging, while "We Have The Power" tries to resurrect, once again, the spiritual uplift of "When The Spirit Moves" but falls short. The song's jagged abrupt ending doesn't help it's cause and would have been a wonderful opportunity for the group to go ballistic on an instrumental coda.

So, what starts off with a bang, ends in a wimper. However, that this mature prog group can still make engaging albums without trying to clone itself is both a wonder and a gift. Just in time for the holidays. 3.5 stars rounded off to 4.

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 Sonic Celluloid by DJAM KARET album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.83 | 40 ratings

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Sonic Celluloid
Djam Karet Eclectic Prog

Review by Tapfret
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars Context is everything. Timing is everything. OK, they can't both be everything. Let's say, one means a lot and the other is everything else. These cliches really came into play when discovering Djam Karet's eighteenth studio album, Sonic Celluloid. As it turns out, this would be my first full dive into a Djam Karet album. I was aware of their existence back in the late '90's when I first delved into the catalog of Wayside Music/Cuneiform Records. The sound did not sit well with me then, or in later happenstance listenings. Admittedly, this is probably because at the time I sought out the very heavy or the very complex at every turn. Djam Karet has never been either of those. In fact, when Sonic Celluloid first hit my ears I was inundating my brain with the artists featured in a Progarchives forum ultra-complex prog discussion. For some reason Sonic Celluloid was the right thing at the right time.

As prefaced, this is not an 'in your face' album. Its an album that invites you in and embraces your presence with astounding subtlety. First off, except for a few spoken word sections, the album is entirely instrumental. Rhythmically less than half of the album that uses a standard rock kit and beats. And where it is present, it does not shy away from the groove. However, large sections of Sonic Celluloid have a spacey, new age feel. But that space is never filler. It is always present and engaging. Much of the ambiance is very reminiscent of Tangerine Dream of the mid-1970's, if a bit more compositionally active and nowhere near as protracted. The electronic textures are complimented by acoustic instruments and the occasional Gilmour-esque warm electric guitar solos. And of course the Prog staple Mellotron is present, though again, subtlety is the key word. All too often it is used to excess in modern Prog. It is used on Sonic Celluloid to produce texture as it was intended.

I suppose there are those that will argue that Sonic Celluloid offers nothing new under the sun, and they are probably right. But what cannot be argued is that this is an album that is diverse and exists in full comfort of that diversity. And at the same time never takes that diversity to extremes. To risk overusing the chief descriptor here, subtle. It is that precise characteristic with the current context and timing of my own listening journey that makes Sonic Celluloid one of my favorite albums of 2017 and an easy recommendation as an essential part of any Progressive rock collection. Not to mention grounds for further exploration of the remaining Djam Karet discography that I have managed to ignore all these years.

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 In Time with Gravity by PLAYGROUNDED album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.05 | 3 ratings

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In Time with Gravity
Playgrounded Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

3 stars Playgrounded is an Electronic/Heavy rock band formed in Greece in 2007 and now based in Rotterdam, Holland. Their debut album, 'Athens', was released in 2013 and they are now back with the follow-up. They supported the likes of Anathema and Riverside following that release, attempting a balance between heavy rock and electronic music, driven by endless talks on the dead-ends of modern Greece. Recorded between August and November 2016 in Kristiansand Norway and produced by C.A.Cederberg (Anathema, Maria Mena etc.), the follow-up (according to the band) stands on the shoulders of giants to take a small step down the path of progressive music, where electronic and electric passages always gravitate to hypnotic ambient grooves.

These are great words, but I'm not sure that it always works. There are times when Playgrounded come across as being heavily influenced by Muse, and this works incredibly well, but when they are more overtly electronic in focus I'm afraid that I tend to lose interest. While I do enjoy some electronic music, it does tend to be in small doses, and even the use of real drums as opposed to programmed doesn't really strike me as much as it should. For me this is an album where the band are still trying to strike their own identity, perhaps not surprising given that it was composed while they were in the throes of moving from Greece to Holland, two very different countries within the EU. It will be the next album, once they are established in Holland, that will show if they are going to be the force they want to be within progressive music. For me this is very much a "wait and see" release, which is good but not essential.

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 From Silence to Somewhere by WOBBLER album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.58 | 183 ratings

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From Silence to Somewhere
Wobbler Symphonic Prog

Review by proghaven

5 stars Yes it's a real masterpiece, a path to future - but exclusively thanks to the closing track, Foxlight. Otherwise From Silence To Somewhere might be no more than just another excellent prog album released in 2017... or 1971...

...well, a strange and magical thing occurred with us all in early 1970s. Before that, since 1920s, those who expected something more than just entertainment from music had no satisfying substance that might be called 'actual serious music'. Or, if you prefer, 'current serious music'. Professor Kabalevsky divided all music into 'serious' and 'light'. 'Serious' is more or less the same as so-called 'classics'. 'Light' is musical entertainment. Starting with 1920s' foxtrots, charlestons, shimmies and tangos, only 'light' music was actual, while 'serious' was archived. The fabulous times when Glinka and Strauss Jr (both actual) were contemporaries were gone. As for Ginastera, Penderecki, Tippett (Michael), Shostakovich, Lord Britten, Shchedrin and others, what they did was brilliant but - on the other hand - archived since the moment it was conceived. That beautiful and innovative music was nevertheless made mostly following the 19th century's prescriptions for melody making, arrangement, instrumentation etc. Jazz was actual but - at least from 1920s to 1950s - too 'light' to be 'serious'.

And then... 'all of a sudden appears a light, horizons open wide'. It happened in late 1960s, many people say in 1969, with In The Court Of The Crimson King, but I think it occurred in 1967 with Days Of Future Passed, with a little help from Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and much more help from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. After the 50- years hiatus, appeared a music which was actual and 'serious' at the same time. Now we call it prog. Back in 1970s it was not just actual but even fashionable, trendy 'serious' music. Its prescriptions were partially inherited from 12th- 19th centuries but mostly original and self-made. Its foundation stones were laid down in 1970s, its paradigm was seriously renewed and upgraded in 1990s. Now, in late 2010s, prog is becoming more and more refined - and, at the same time, senile, still following the same high road and transforming into a sort of 'new classics'.

Perhaps Wobbler is a peak of the evolution of prog music. Or at least one of its existing peaks. Their latest album clearly shows that prog is nowadays close to its perfection - and has no way to go further in the same kind as before. No, Wobbler and other current bands do not simply repeat or reproduce the 1970s music. But the prog paradigm is evidently growing older and not likely to have as much capacities for renewal and upgrade as in 1990s. The 2010s prog is still 'serious', even more serious than in 1970s, but hardly actual. It's harder and harder for prog to avoid becoming archived.

Moreover, sometimes modern prog artists proudly emphasize their initially archived status, though they don't hesitate to use actual recording equipment and software. Lars Fredrik Froislie has a monstrous collection of vintage analog keyboards (Hammond organ, Mellotron, some fossil Roland etc) but does not use magnetic tapes and vintage analog recording equipment. No, he uses Sonar. Back in 2011 we had a short conversation on MySpace, and Lars revealed how happy he was to find two plugins which help to get a better sound...

In other words, modern progsters are not conservative or old-fashioned sensu stricto, they use the 2010s soft... to make 1970s-like music. And this approach meets full approval at their audience. Similarity to 1970s is considered a merit. But it's 'another cul-de-sac'. Tempus fugit, and soon new exacting listeners will experience a new critical lack of actual 'serious' music. As a result, a next 'serious' music's algorithm will be born, maybe again with long delay, nobody knows. I'm not sure but hope that Foxlight (along with selected tracks from Galadriel's Calibrated Collision Course, Haken's Aquarius and Lifesigns' Cardington) may become a part or a predecessor of that future algorithm. And anyway I'd prefer the remaining three tracks on the album From Silence To Somewhere to be as unwonted as Foxlight and less canonical than they are.

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 Urn by NE OBLIVISCARIS album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.02 | 11 ratings

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Urn
Ne Obliviscaris Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars Founded in the Australian coastal city of Melbourne in the year 2003, Ne Obliviscaris took the inspiration for their name from the proud motto of Argyll, Scotland's Clan Campbell which means "forget not". From the start, this collective made it clear that they did not intend to follow any trends or walk on well-trodden paths. This is their third album, and again shows their refusal to fit into any particular pigeonhole, but instead is out to prove that music (at least in its truest form) is indeed a living beast but isn't something that will conform to anything in particular. Listen to certain sections of songs and one will be convinced that this is an out and out death metal act, but listen to others and it is obvious to anyone that they are acoustic folk, but to be honest Ne Obliviscaris are one of those incredibly rare things, a progressive band operating out of Australia.

For my sins I have to go to Melbourne about once a month, and I see I need to keep an eye on their website and tie one of these trips in to catch these guys in concert, because if this album is anything to go by they are a force to be reckoned with. Each of the musicians is at the top of his game, and seems able to cope with any and all musical forms. Daniel Presland is a dab hand at powering the band from the back, and is full control of the double bass drum pedals, while guest bassist Robin Zielhorst has an incredibly warm and pronounced style (his impact is so strong that I do find it hard to understand why he isn't a full member of the band). Matt Klavins and Benjamin Baret provide the twin guitar attack, riffing of shredding as the needs prevails, although they can also go acoustic. This then leads the twin frontmen of Tim Charles and Xenoyr. The latter is in charge of the crushed larynx approach while Tim is a clean singer, who also adds violin, but often in a full out frontal attack with the guitars as opposed to something more gentle and melodic, although he can do that as well when required.

This is a consummate act, and one that has produced an incredibly complex album which proves (if it was required) that those who enjoy playing music loud enough to burst ear drums often also have a great deal of musical talent and make their own rules. This isn't gently straddling the lines between quite diverse genres, but is stamping all over them and proving that music is whatever the purveyor wishes it to be. There will be some who say that this is too progressive for their extreme metal tastes, while others will say that the guitars are too much and the drum attack is upsetting them. Me, I think it is bloody excellent and look forward to hearing a great deal more from them.

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 Thick As A Brick 2 [Aka: TAAB2] by ANDERSON, IAN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.73 | 387 ratings

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Thick As A Brick 2 [Aka: TAAB2]
Ian Anderson Prog Folk

Review by poito

2 stars 2.5 The limping flutist goes by himself...and copies himself. Sorry for being disrespectful to the blowing master. He was one of my prog heroes till I saw him stalling a live show in Madrid and yelling angrily at a poor smoking boy. A shell of what he used to be. Definitely, too old for the rock and roll. Let the children play, Ian, the same way your parents did. You are not eligible to play the world savior. I've been following the Tull from the start. A band that was chameleonic in the first 8-10 years and then they got frozen. Anderson is a genius composer, no doubt, and here he shows a few bits of it, but there is no reason to tarnish one of the quintessential albums of all times. Sure Anderson thinks he copies Anderson better than others, but was it really necessary to reuse the album's title? I mean, we all would be grateful if he had made this in 1972, before the first brick worn down by the years, so this could have been released now as leftovers of the first brick or something, and JT collectors would be excited. But now, it looks Anderson wants to pick up the laurels of the elder. Don't take me wrong, the album is not awful (just ok), but the themes, spite of being spattered with bits of the original brick are too far from leaving trace of memory. First of all, the musicians are a bit stiff, as if they are reading from a sheet, the bass is almost inaudible, you'll have to work on your equalizer hard, and finally, no one substitutes Martin Barre. Second, there is nothing new here. Anyway, JT fans will have a good time with brick 2 out of nostalgia.

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 Lost Signal by CODE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2017
4.02 | 3 ratings

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Lost Signal
Code Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Lost Signal" is an EP release by UK progressive/avant rock/metal act Code. The EP was released through Agonia Records in January 2017. It's the successor to the band's fourth full-length studio album "Mut" from 2015 and features the same lineup as the album does.

"Lost Signal" doesn't contain any new original material but instead feautures 6 re-recorded and re-arranged tracks from the band's four preceding studio albums. Three tracks off "Mut (2015)" and one track from each of the other three studio albums "Nouveau Gloaming (2005)", "Resplendent Grotesque (2009)", and "Augur Nox (2013)". The tracks off "Mut (2015)" are given a slightly more raw and gritty treatment, while the three tracks from the first three albums are arranged to sound more like the dark and heavy progressive/avant rock/metal of "Mut (2015)". So the black metal influences of the past are mostly gone from the band's sound at this point, although the occasional snarling vocal phrase still stubbornly holds on to a minimal extreme metal orientation. "Lost Signal" however predominantly features clean vocals by lead vocalist Wacian.

Code manage to make the listener feel that "Lost Signal" was recorded live, that's how gritty, authentic, and organic the EP sounds. It's a perfect sound production for the material. Add to that intriguing songwriting and high level musicianship and you have another high quality release by Code on your hands. One of the great things about Code at this point of their career, is that there's stylistic development between every release, and as a listener you just know that they aren't through developing their style yet, and that you can expect more surprises in the future. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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 The Congregation by LEPROUS album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.04 | 436 ratings

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The Congregation
Leprous Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On The Congregation, Leprous shift their musical style a little closer to the border between progressive metal and progressive rock; aggression, volume, and heavy riffs are played down in importance next to the melodic aspects of the music, as well as the keyboard work of synth-wiz and vocalist Einar Solberg. Here and there the approach has been compared to Muse, which sort of makes sense - in particular, to me it brings to mind Muse's Origin of Symmetry, since both albums have a very similar sense of unfettered exuberance, with both bands shifting away from the musical style of previous releases to follow a new sound with unwavering dedication, heedless of how overblown things may become.

The end result is a substantially more accessible Leprous release than any other I've heard, but whilst it's a good entry point to their music, it's also a solid development of what's come before which will have something new to offer seasoned fans too.

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 Nemrud by NEMRUD album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 189 ratings

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Nemrud
Nemrud Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars For a band, producing a self-titled album several releases into your career makes a certain statement - it suggests a certain maturity has been reached, that you've found your feet, established your sound, and are ready to put forth a distinctive manifesto of what your musical project is all about.

In the case of Nemrud's self-titled third album, the Turkish space rock unit seems to have decided that their musical mission is to pick up the distinctive style of Eloy and carry it forwards into a new era, with the end result being an album which, if you slipped it into the Eloy discography, would probably be acclaimed as the best thing they've done since the 1970s. Mert Göçay's performance, in particular, with his distinctive guitar tone and his vocal style, puts me in mind of nothing less than the Eloy of the Ocean/Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes sort of era.

Nonetheless, it would be very wrong to write this album off as a mere exercise in cloning the Eloy sound; more modern electronics and synthesisers are integrated with a greater smoothness than I think Eloy themselves managed, and as with the preceding Ritual the extensive instrumental breaks have a character of their own. Whilst I wouldn't call it an all-time classic, I certainly think it's the best Nemrud release I've heard so far, and certainly deserves to get them attention from anyone who enjoys the particular brand of space rock that Eloy pioneered and which few others have taken forwards (Anyone's Daughter perhaps being the only example that comes to mind).

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 Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2012
3.04 | 4 ratings

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Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars In 2011 Peter Hammill released 2-CD live set "PNO GTR VOX" of his specifically themed solo performances in Japan; on one gig PH is backing himself solely on acoustic guitar, and on another gig with piano (1st and 2nd discs of this release), and later on he changes the instrument during the gig (or disc), but never using both on a same song. No other musicians or instruments are involved in this entire 7-CD box. Sounds like it was made for die-hard fans only, doesn't it? I'm not such fan, even less a completionist for ANY artist, and actually I was very close to give a "collectors/fans only" two-star rating, as that description hits the nail. Let's get it straight at once: clearly this IS fan stuff, not recommended for more casual Hammill listeners. That being said, I'll use the rating scale more freely, based on my personal reception.

Peter Hammill is an artist that strongly divides opinions. Either you like him or you can't get into his music at all. I do like him, and Van der Graaf Generator especially, but definitely not everything he's done. And often, in this case more than ever, the certain rawness won't win any new listeners. Technically, Peter Hammill is an average player of piano. And he's an average player of guitar too. So it's obvious that the power of this music comes from the unique vocalist/lyricist. For those who dislike his voice, listening to this set through would be mere torture. Not that it would be a light task for a dedicated fan either. In the liner notes Hammill admits that there can be TOO MUCH of Peter Hammill to digest at once, referring both to the restricted lengths of the concerts and the lengths of the CD's that only in three cases out of seven exceed the 70-minute mark. He also encourages the listener to edit his/her own ideal set list.

The four gig themes in Japan were "What if I forgot my guitar?", "What if there no piano?", "'What if I knew this was the last show I'd ever do?" and "'What if I played only VdGG/VdG songs?" You can check out the set lists as well as the three other (more or less artificial) CD themes on the album page. Track lengths are unfortunately missing, but in the leaflet PH has listed the studio albums for all songs (a gesture I appreciate!), and the discographies of both VdGG - or VdG - and Hammill's solo career are being covered pretty evenly, ie. there are no many albums that are not represented at all. Some are by one song only, e.g. 'Afterwards' from the VdGG debut (1968), gorgeous 'The Comet...' from In Camera (1974), 'Too Many of My Yesterdays' from And Close As This (1986), 'Time to Burn' from In a Foreign Town (1988), superb 'A Way Out' from Out of Water (1990) or 'I Will Find You' from Fireships (1992). The last mentioned song is one of the most banal songs in this set, and Out of Water would have been a suitable source album in general for one-man performances, just to pick up two examples of could-have-been-better -cases. Some albums, e.g. Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night, Enter K, Patience, or the latest at the time, Thin Air (2009), are sources for three or four songs.

To get the idea of those solo shows, it wouldn't be unwise to choose the 2-CD version instead of the box set. The most irrelevant is the 7th disc containing alternate versions (yeah, talk about "fans only" stuff...). The disc containing only VdGG/VdG songs was the most striking disappointment for me. Simply because these ripped-down versions are SO inferior to the originals! This naturally applies also to some solo stuff, though to notably smaller degree. The better I remember the original, the more I miss the other instruments such as the violin/viola of Stuart Gordon or saxes and flutes of David Jackson that grace several PH albums. CD's 5 and 6 expand the song selection pretty well (even though being under an hour's length) and offer well-functioning songs such as 'Autumn', 'The Lie' and 'Four Pails'. To sum up: if you're a die-hard fan of Peter Hammill and enjoy his unique magic created by passionate vocals and meaningful song-writing, also in the rawest of settings, you'll enjoy this box set. For all others I advice to get some of the best studio albums instead.

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 Mind Cemeteries by COMA CLUSTER VOID album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.86 | 3 ratings

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Mind Cemeteries
Coma Cluster Void Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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

4 stars If you wish to advance past the avant-garde atonal brutality of technical death metal such as the landmark Gorguts album "Obscura," then it is not with that band's following albums that is the path to the ultimate expression of progressive metal orotundity is furthered as Luc LeMay and his pioneering band would tone things down ever so slightly and drift in a slightly more accessible direction. While the desire to one up the great Gorguts has been attempted by quite a few tech death metal bands over the last two decades, very few have matched the intensity and sheer bleakness of that pioneering album of sombre and uncompromising hopelessness and intimidation. Coming from Germany is is the extreme tech death metal band COMA CLUSTER VOID who offer a serious contender for the Canadian classic with their debut album MIND CEMETERIES which delivers a veritable frenetic intensity worthy of its title.

The band is the project of John Streider who plays a down-tuned 10-string guitar and is the main composer of this maelstrom of progressive brutality. The band is completed with the bass playing of Sylvia Hintz (yes! women play tech death metal too) and Chris Burrows' ferocious percussion attacks that effortlessly groove and roll around the swirling freneticism of the endless stream of dissonant string action swarms. While the music is of the utmost avant-garde experimental death metal most reminiscent of "Obscura" era Gorguts, all the complexities are turned up several notches creating one of the most forbidding musical experiences in the entire metal universe. The vocal duties are shared by Mike DiSalvo (formerly of Cryptopsy) and Austin Taylor (of the band Dimensionless). The pair trade off between in sync frenetic torturously screamed rants to semi-spoken declarative prose that at time sounds like some of the mystic Satanic revelations of Deathspell Omega. There are occasional clean Pagan folk type vocals as well but they are muffled by the incessant din.

The album begins with the bleak ambient atmospheric opener "Prologue: I Am" which sets the tone for an utterly devastating attack of sonic fury to come before the first disharmonious delivery of atonal distortion churns out of the guitar and bass which for better or worse act as a single instrument for the majority of the album's run making it indistinguishable where the 10-string guitar ends and bass continues in the lower realms of the bass octaves. Burrows is an absolute beast on the drums as he effortlessly keeps the beat to the unsettling time signature deviations at blastbeat speeds with jazzy fills that frenetically outpace the anguished angular rhythmic assault of the guitar riffs fueled with distortion that stretches to infinity. While the album is rather unrelenting in its delivery, a small hiatus occurs in the middle with the slowed down intermission "Interlude: I See Through Your Pain" which while set in ambient mode yet still find the atonal guitar strums interrupting any attempt to regain sanity.

COMA CLUSTER VOID offer up an extremely demanding listen with MIND CEMETERIES and sound like they took many cues from the masters of the extreme by utilizing the compositional prowess of Gorguts, the atonal fury of Deathspell Omega, the distorted multi- dimensional surreality of Portal and Mitochondrion and take it all up a few more notches believe it or not. Personally i didn't think that could be done but they prove here that this angular zigzagging can indeed be cranked up on the extreme-o-meter. Needless to say, that this isn't your parents' heavy metal. This is some sort of freakazoid science experiment akin to a genetic mutilation that occurred from some secret extraterrestrial genetic experiment that got loose and is driven to create as much havoc as the laws of the universe will allow. This one is only for those who can immerse themselves in the most brutal, the most progressive and the most surreal soundscapes that have been crafted by demons. Definitely not a sing-a-long album but one that will surely blow your mind and ear canals to boot.

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 EOXXV by ELECTRIC ORANGE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.53 | 5 ratings

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EOXXV
Electric Orange Krautrock

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

4 stars German band Electric Orange have been around in some form for twenty five years now, founded by Dirk Jan Müller, a multi- instrumentalist who primarily handles keyboards (and also recently started a well-received Berlin School-influenced prog- electronic side-project Cosmic Ground). Over their early years, alongside frequent contributor Dirk Bittner, the group was mostly occupied by guests and/or a rotating door of varied musicians, but a settled line-up of the band eventually found their calling in heavy Krautrock-flavoured ambient jams on their most recent works. To commemorate their anniversary, Dirk and the group have delivered three very different and worthy works this year, with the main focus being on `EOXXV', an expansive 134-minute set that falls somewhere between a new studio work and compilation (the recordings date from 2013 to January of this year), and for your money you get a lavish triple LP set or a double CD collection of superb Krautrock jams that frequently run to over twenty minutes in length each.

`Continuum' opens the album like many of the improvisations here and on recent Electric Orange works, blending long stretches of slowly unfolding ambient electronic drones, dusty distortion-laced guitar atmospheres and rumbling bass grumbles turned in multiple unpredictable directions by unrelenting drumming, the band expertly lifting in drama and retreating again over and over. Grumbling fluid bass ruminations and trippy guitar shimmers permeate `Under The Nun' around ethereal electronic canvasses, searing Mellotron bursts and slowly growing spacey swirling Hammond organ swells (that often call to mind the `Inside/Floating' psychedelic period of vintage German symphonic band Eloy). The sublime `Gnosis' (sadly only included on the CD edition) is spiced with the most subtle of delicate jazzy flavours among its glacial synth pools and lightly pattering drums that eventually take on a hypnotic tribal beat-like grasp, the piece taking a dangerous turn with some maddening fiddle slices and wavering electronic shivers in the finale.

There's an uncomfortable unease to the first half of `Misophonia IV's rumbling and brooding faraway ambient sound-collages that float and shimmer in unhurried hallucinogenic washes, with the piece soon moving in and out of tense drumming hypnotics, nightmarish psychedelics and stormy distortion melts. `Misophonia V' glides between dreamy mellow guitars, ethereal synth caresses and cacophonous flurries of wild drumming, the final crashing moments of `Faint' with its pounding mountain-sized drumbeat stomping down on everything in its path has to be heard to be believed, and album closer `Residuum' is equally a lulling space-music collage and darker ambient distortion drone with moments of blissful life- affirming touches.

`EOXXV' jumps back and forth between `kind of more of the same' as the last few studio releases, and serious contender for one of the albums of the year. While several tracks follow a similar pattern and the album is far too long, each individual piece is an outstanding Krautrock jam of heady sounds and exploratory colour all its own, and to have them compiled in the one place makes it a very attractive release. If you're a massive EO fan and not bothered by the fact that parts of the album mine similar ground to `Volume 10', `Misophonia' and `Würzburg Cairo 2015', then `EOXXV' will make a huge impression on you and make for yet another first-rate modern Krautrock work from one of the best heavy psych bands going around today.

Four and a half stars.

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 Caravan by CARAVAN album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.68 | 464 ratings

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Caravan
Caravan Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Out of the ashes The DAEVID ALLEN TRIO and THE WILDE FLOWERS comes this debut album from one of the three most important contributors to the Canterbury legacy. Daevid Allen has moved to France, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and the Hopper brothers are moving all over the place (Soft Machine to Matching Mole, et al.) which leaves the Hastings, Sinclair, and Coughlan families to sort out their own directions and desires.

1. "Place of my own" (4:01) nice vocal melodies for this organ-based tune. (8/10)

2. "Ride" (3:42) rather bland and ordinary with Pye singing the lead up close and personal. (7/10)

3. "Policeman" (2:44) Richard Sinclair taking a turn at the lead--he's more conservative than we'll hear in a year or two. Quite a little similarity to THE BEATLE's "I am the Walrus" without the crazed, surreal lyrics. (8/10)

4. "Love song with flute" (4:10) a very catchy and almost perfectly polished prog pop song (using melodic themes that they would return to over the course of the next few years). (9.5/10)

5. "Cecil runs" (4:07) opens with experimental guitar chords, spaciousness and a new synth to play with. Chorale harmony vocals enter to announce the telling of a story. Animated organ play provides the action here. I love the beat to this one. And the theatric vocal displays. My favorite song on the album due to both it's experimental play and its unbound theatric storytelling. (9.5/10)

6. "Magic man" (4:03) serves notice to the fact that the boys are struggling to find the voice of their own, instead they are talented singer/musicians taking on sounds and styles others have had success with. This one is more of a combination of PROCUL HARUM's now-classic "Whiter Shade of Pale" and ELP's recent monster "underground" hit, "Lucky Man" (bass and guitar). Not bad! (9/10)

7. "Grandma's lawn" (3:25) Richard in lead again, organ and guitar are quite a bit looser here and the MOODY BLUES-like lyrics and vocal flow more extemporaneously. (8.5/10)

8. "Where but for Caravan would I be" (9:01) their first prog epic--containing a lot of elements reminiscent of contemporary bands like THE BEATLES, THE DOORS, THE ZOMBIES, and even THE MOODY BLUES, this organ-based blues-rock song is musically quite rudimentary yet contains some very interesting vocal and lyrical choices. The final 90 seconds is the best. Tidings of things to come. (8/10)

The best is yet to come.

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 Hugh Hopper & Alan Gowen: Two Rainbows Daily by HOPPER, HUGH album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.83 | 40 ratings

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Hugh Hopper & Alan Gowen: Two Rainbows Daily
Hugh Hopper Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

2 stars An album of sensitive, somewhat melodic, protracted keyboard experimentation with support from jazz bass by two Canterbury artists still committed to the original spirit of Canterbury Scene artists. The problem herein is the lack of direction: each song sounds like it exists purely for study or experimentation with a certain sound, cadence, chromatic sense, rhythm, sequence, or nonmelody.

1. "Seen Through A Door" (5:54) sounds an awful lot like some of ANTHONY PHILLIPS keyboard work from this era and later--soundtrack like in a rudimentary, almost rehearsal kind of way. (8.5/10)

2. "Morning Order" (6:32) again, sounding more like the background music to a segment of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the keyboard work progresses nicely as the bass remains fully present and supportive. Again, more experimental in nature as there is very little melody presented for listener engagement. (8.5/10)

3. "Fishtank 1" (4:56) more keyboard "practice" as bass plays one chord every twenty seconds or so. Nice melody from the left hand of the keyboard. (8/10)

4. "Two Rainbows Daily" (4:14) piano-based with a little more lively bass support and interplay. Reminds me of Lyle Mays' work. The structured and complete-feeling song on the album so far. (9/10)

5. "Elibom" (5:04) a duet that feels quite equal in participation, though, again, the melodic sense makes it feel more like an étude or a television soundtrack. (7.5/10)

6. "Every Silver Lining" (5:23) sounds like a TERRY C. RILEY practice session or early Berlin School contrivance but certainly not a complete song. (7.5/10)

7 . "Waltz For Nobby" (9:07) slow, delicate pace--could almost be a soundtrack for a children's story or an episode of Mr. Rogers. Very pretty melodies throughout and I love spaciousness. (9/10)

Bonus tracks on 1995 CD remaster: While the seven songs selected for the original release are void of any percussion/drums, these have percussion support but are much more demo-sounding in sound quality and, thus, more even more sparse, incomplete, and practice-like in their form. Nothing so very extraordinary here.

8. Chunka's Troll (4:03) experimental jazz 9. Little Dream (5:16) trio sublteties 10. Soon to Fly (4:03) classical piano bar 11. Bracknell Ballad (4:10) warm up of all instruments 12. Stopes Change (3:25) drums plus

In my opinion, this collection of songs, both the original and the 1995 re-issue, are only worthy of recommending to Canterbury Scene completionists or fans of either of the two musicians on the billing.

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 Thoughts by ZYMA album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.96 | 53 ratings

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Thoughts
Zyma Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Outstanding recording engineering and sound clarity to support great performances from all musicians, great vocals from both Greg Lake-like male vocalist Meinrad HIRT and Amanda Parsons-like female vocalist (and violin, flute and percussion contributor), Dorle FERBER. The keyboard work from Günter HORNUNG is top notch throughout and the bass work from Bodo BRANDL also stands out.

1. "Thoughts" (8:19) flows along beautifully, superlatively, for the first four Zeuhlish minutes as choir intermittently exchange support and lead moments with lead singer Dorle Ferber--who sings wordlessly in a vocalese style. Steady, almost funky bass with rock-Zeuhl drumming while Günter Hornung plays on a number of different keyboards. By the time the violin takes the lead, the music has shifted to a more spacious jazz foundation. At 6:20 there occurs a rather radical shift into a kind of West Coast blues-jazz-pop with Dorle singing in English about what's going on in your brain. I like the first third the best. (8.5/10)

2. "Businessman" (12:33) spacey synth and jazzy keyboard opening with delicate cymbal play make it feel as if we're at the dawning of something. Separate drum kit and bass track emerges from 1:30 resulting in a quick-paced Fender Rhodes chord-based foundation over which synths and electric violin (and, later, female vocalese) solo and collectively repeat complex jazz melodies. At 4:15 clavinet and different (arp?) synth take over. Love the bass play throughout this one. Male lead vocal enters at 5:15--with stage musical-like background choral shouts. Raucous piano solo follows the second verse in the fifth minute. Another sound shift at 5:45 while bass and drums continue to play at their frenetic pace. Violin takes another turn alternating with synth sound soli. Rhythm section finally slows down and decays into near stillness in the tenth minute before a varied return occurs at 9:55. More synth soloing over clavinet while drums and bass race to the finish. Pretty amazing display of musicianship! (9/10)

3. "One Way Street" (8:04) oddly weird and, unfortunately, dated, but stands up due to great clarity and cohesiveness among the band members--unified focus. (8/10)

4. "We Got Time" (3:43) sounds like a little flower child pop songs like something from Britain's Sonja Kirsten (CURVED AIR), Lulu or Dusty Springfield. Catchy and upbeat if not wholly prog. (8.5/10)

5. "Wasting Time" (9:39) the centerpiece of the album and a Canterbury epic for the ages! I LOVE FLANGED DRUMS! Awesome bass line, drumming and piano work throughout this classic. One of the best, most definitive Canterbury songs ever. (10/10)

While not totally fitting into the classic Canterbury Scene, the experimental nature of the sound and stylistic choices definitely makes this album a shining example of the Canterbury approach to jazzier pop/progressive rock music.

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 Screens Live in London by PANIC ROOM album cover DVD/Video, 2017
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Screens Live in London
Panic Room Crossover Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
5 stars Screens is the DVD recording of a Panic Room gig filmed at Islington Assembly Hall, London, on 16/10/2016. The gig was planned, and the entire project commissioned, with a Pledge Music campaign by the band. Those readers of this review wishing to purchase this fine piece of work should note that it is only available from the band direct at www.panicroom.org.

Panic Room have released five consistently excellent albums now since their inception out of the ashes of another South Wales band, Karnataka. At their heart are the excellent vocalist Anne-Marie Helder, whose work with Mostly Autumn will be familiar to many, Jonathan Edwards on keyboards, and Gavin Griffiths on drums, also of Mostly Autumn vintage.

The band is completed by two superb musicians. Dave Foster's marvellous riff on gig opener, Into Temptation, gives the viewer a foretaste of a superb performance, whilst the band have enjoyed the services for a while now of one of the finest bass exponents in modern progressive rock in Yatim Halimi. That these two also play with The Steve Rothery Band should give you an idea of their expertise.

The DVD itself is sumptuously packaged, and the filming by Toward Infinity, responsible for work with Marillion, amongst others, more than does justice to the occasion. There is also a bonus disc, which is more interesting than most, featuring the intro to the gig by the venerable Jerry Ewing of Prog magazine, three more live tracks, and an 'access all areas' feature of the band in rehearsals, amongst other jaunts.

Panic Room are a band clearly in their element live. As with the studio albums, the sheer breadth of their music shines through. The playing is never anything less than tight, and we are treated to a fair old mixture from hard rocking, to melodious love songs, to progressive symphonic rock, to lush middle eastern soundscapes. For early evidence of a band utterly in tune with each other, witness Screens, which is as fine an ensemble piece as you will see and hear. It is perhaps unfair to single out anyone, but Halimi thunders along on this, playing a massive bass riff to a wonderfully dark Edwards key lead.

As with all films of gigs, the DVD really needs to be watched from start to finish. There are twenty-two tracks in total, nineteen on the first, main, feature. As with all gigs, though, there are standout highlights which deserve special mention in a review, and I will touch on some of these.

The gig features my favourite track of the 2010's in Start the Sound. From the wonderful album, Incarnate, this track is as good a piece of melodic progressive rock as you will have the pleasure of witnessing. By heaven, Helder sounds joyous on this, and Foster plays a lovely understated solo. As he quietly plays the denouement following Edwards delicate keys, you stare at the screen, boggled at the beauty of what you have heard. I also appreciate deeply the political comment element that the band bring to their music. Yasuni is a fine piece centred around the scandalous oil drilling in Ecuador's National Park. Dust is an emotional rollercoaster of a rocker which tells the tragic story of airstrikes dropping chemical weapons in Syria on children. This track is every bit as good as Gaza, Marillion's opener on Sounds That Can't Be Made, and the intensity of it leaves you stunned. The combination of honest lyrics, combined with fine musicianship speaks volumes for the maturity in a band which I always look for. Anyone can sing about boy meets girl, boy shags girl, & etc. A band such as Panic Room deserves the progressive community's support for this social comment set to outstanding music, in the finest tradition of the genre.

They do, though, also play some rather catchy stuff. Some call it 'commercial'. I just call it mighty fine. A recent review in The Times of boxsets by ELP & King Crimson described them, rightly, as, ahem, 'difficult'. The same review then suggested, as a Christmas box, that the non-progger partner in your life might prefer the superb Big Big Train, as an example of how modern progressive rock bands can also play, er, tunes. Panic Room are in that vein and in that quality. For no better example, I give you the quite beautiful Firefly, a ballad wonderfully sung, accompanied by piano and acoustic guitar.

Tightrope Walking is one of those tracks with wider world influences, and reminds one of Kashmir in parts. Helder plays hand drums on this, and the orchestral keys are very atmospheric.

Skin is classic Panic Room, melodic and played at a deceptively quiet intensity.

In the gig closer, Satellite, the band have one of the finest anthemic songs ever put to record. It is simply one of those songs which demands the lowering of the lights, the volume cranked up to the max, and a damned fine singalong.

This is an excellent film, and I enjoyed every minute.

On Prog Archives, we are obliged to provide a rating. Well, for existing fans such as I, this is simply essential. For those of you who are tempted to begin a Panic Room journey, it is quite an excellent way to start said road. If we had such a rating, 4.5. I am rounding it up to the maximum five for two reasons. First, I am allowed to, and, second, it really deserves no less. Very highly recommended.

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 Transcendental Circus by ORPHEUS NINE album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.93 | 15 ratings

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Transcendental Circus
Orpheus Nine Heavy Prog

Review by proghaven

3 stars The era with no newbies. The days when pupils successfully jump directly from diapers to a professor's chair, while founding fathers seem to be still in diapers. The vocals better than Gabriel's, the drumming better than Mason's, the guitar playing better than Howe's... but those all were (and still are) easily recognizable. The music reminds sometimes Genesis, sometimes Spock's Beard, or Shingetsu (first part of Fetish), or Glass Hammer (and therefore Yes circa The Yes Album), early Relayer, early No Name... well, the list of references and analogies can be prolonged endlessly. The only question with no answer is where and when does the band's music remind Orpheus Nine? For some tracks (No Illusions, Age Of Rhyme And Reason, Sandcastles) it's not easy to recognize whose music they remind, but surely remind someone else's. Not stolen from anyone but hardly distinctive. What to say about the prog band Orpheus Nine and their debut album? They produce very well crafted and skilled music. They excellently play their instruments and sing. Their arrangements are amazingly complex and diverse. The only thing the band sadly misses is capability to risk - and readiness for risk. They are too flawless. So flawless that they lose originality. Even the two mindblowing epic suites (multi-part self-titled and The Fall Of The House Of Keys) do not change the overall impression. Besides they undoubtedly do have original musical ideas. But for now, it's not quite clear what their message to the world is. Hopefully the band's next album will show.

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 Dronne by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.43 | 9 ratings

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Dronne
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars It took 5 years for NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA to bring forth a follow up to their brilliant "I a Moon". They continue to explore a mix of sophisticated folk and highbrow Kraut influenced instrumentals. Here the scales are tipped more to the latter. In one track, "The British Road", they manage to combine the two rather elegantly. Of the acoustic oriented songs, "Alsace Lorraine" is the most charming. The title cut reminds me of the sort of music that would accompany guided meditations, with floating and mesmerizing synthesizers and little or none of the rhythms that accompanied prior exercises. "Dinosaurus Rex" closes the album in two parts, and, while it is all instrumental, it does blend the organic and electronic again, and offers some bewitching moments.

"Dronne" seems to lacks the trepidation of its predecessor in combining seemingly disparate influences, and the elation of succeeding beyond all expectations. I have the sense that the band has found its comfort level here, which makes for a pleasant but buzz free listen. Mildly recommended, but start with "I a Moon".

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 Nula Jedan by THORK album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.23 | 24 ratings

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Nula Jedan
Thork Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars While French prog has garnered a somewhat deserved reputation for theatricality via melodramatic vocals, the adjective that comes to mind when listening to this third release of THORK is brooding. The pieces are mostly over 7 minutes long and slow to mid paced, with an emphasis on the mood conjured by succinct, rarely soloing but frequently reverberated guitars, blended vocals, atmospheric or hypnotic keyboards, creative percussion and occasional strings and winds. Most of these diverse sounds are from the hand and mouth of leader Sébastien Fillion, but he has the audacity to pull it off without sounding like a solo project, perhaps due to the evolving history of the band.

While billed as and influenced by progressive folk, THORK proposes a plodding and heavily symphonic sound with robust folk roots that vacillate between Celtic and Middle Eastern in flavor. Given the track durations, I find the pace lumbers along a bit too much for the step dancing blood that apparently courses in my veins, but the sound itself is exemplary, and my personal favourites are the paradoxically folkier and harder edged "Ici" and the genre busting "Au Ciel" with its swirling dervish joie de vivre. Recommended particularly to those who revel in the alchemies of prog rock. 3.5 stars rounded up for originality.

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 Pacifisticuffs by DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.69 | 7 ratings

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Pacifisticuffs
Diablo Swing Orchestra Progressive Metal

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

5 stars Very few bands in the overcrowded world of progressive rock / metal manage to develop a highly unique and utterly original sound right from the start and even fewer manage to keep the legions of copycats from jumping on the bandwagon, but fourteen years after their formation, the bizarre avant-swing-symphonic-metal-rock group DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA still manages to exist in a musical universe all their very own. After long speculation of whether or not the band would continue after the departures of vocalist Annlouice Loegdlund and percussionist Petter Karlsson, the band kept the rumors at bay by declaring that they were still an active musical group yet somehow the years slipped by with no new album. Finally after a mere half decade DOS returns with their fourth album PACIFISTICUFFS. While originally slated for a 2016 release, the countless delays and technical difficulties in the mixing resulted in a year long delay from the original target. But at long last towards the end of 2017, the album has finally emerged and sounds exactly like what one would expect as a followup to their 2012 album "Pandora's Piñata."

As with all the DSO album, PACIFISTICUFFS is quite the sophisticated project that may not be apparent upon a casual listening experience. The band once again take the disparate elements of swing revival and symphonic prog rock as their main canvasses to paint upon but include the usual metal guitar riffs to add the extra heft albeit the latter are much less pronounced as opposed to their earlier heavy guitar-laden riffing. This album still retains all the DSO characteristics that came before but there are a lot more genre diversions as well. The most prominent of these is a heavy emphasis on Balkan gypsy folk rhythms and musical scales that add that polka-esque oom-paa-paa feel to much of the album. Some of the brass sections also carry a klezmer type of flavor at times and there are even parts that dip into Elvis Presley country-esque territory ("The Age Of Vulture Culture") and tango ("Cul-de-sac Semantics") as well as occasional banjo outbursts. The symphonic tracks are quite grand with lush violin and viola passages that make you forget you're listening to a rock based album at times. This is quite the assembly of musicians and contains a huge army of personal on board to bring about this album. There are not only eight members credited to be official members but an additional eleven musicians that add the touches of violin, viola, double bass, clarinet, tube, additional percussion and backing vocals. The production department is no less impressive.

While DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA gets lumped into the avant-garde metal camp, i have to emphasize that this is not really a metal band at all but an avant-garde swing revival band that just happens to incorporate aspects of metal into their overall sound. For those who only rely on the metal bombast to keep their interest, then PACIFISTICUFFS will surely disappoint because of the fact that the metal parts seem to play much less of a role this time around. True that tracks like "Superhero Jaggnath" have ample bursts of guitar riffing prowess but for the most part, this album is more of a silky smooth studio album that some may call overproduced and overweening in its pompous operatic outbursts that at their peak don't sound too far off from some of the zeuhl band Magma's most in-yer-face moments. Also as always, DSO focus their full force on over-the-top catchy melodies that become exaggerated by the pomp and awe of the many backing elements of swing, rock and symphony. Both newbies vocalist Kristin Evegård and drummer Johan Norbäck integrate perfectly into the band with Evegård sounding exactly like her predecessor in every possible way. On a side note, the non-album track "Jigsaw Hustle" which appeared in 2014 as a lone single has been rerecorded and shows the diverse palette expand even further into the disco revival world. The track reminds me a lot of ELO's "Out Of The Blue" era.

After only a couple listens to PACIFISTICUFFS, i'm utterly amazed at how well it all flows together so seamlessly where every little touch is disciplined and the puzzle pieces placed in a precise order in order to achieve the desired effect. All the delays in the mixing room were worth the wait as the production is absolutely crystal clear and instead of all the disparate instruments sounding like a big muddy mess, each has found its niche in the greater sonic picture as if a great conductor is hiding behind the scenes as to ensure that nobody jumps the gun and gets all jiggy on us. PACIFISTICUFFS will not win over any non-believers for sure. If anything it will scare off all but the most serious music nerds who are fans of the many genres on display here. For me, this album ranks as one of the band's most ambitious and taking the logical path of progression past 2012's "Pandora's Piñata." It's hard to know what to call this anymore since the tracks vary so much and no element dominates the soundscape for long. Not every track contains metal, nor swing nor symphonic chamber rock. Some contain all three but no matter which of these holds the reins at any particular moment, they are always accompanied by unexpected elements guided by memorable and captivating melodic developments. I do believe that DSO have proven that they are no mere novelty and that they have the chops to pull off some of the most mind-bending genre juggling there is to be heard.

4.5 rounded up

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 Of Clans and Clones and Clowns by SOUL ENEMA album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.05 | 79 ratings

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Of Clans and Clones and Clowns
Soul Enema Eclectic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Wonderfully diverse folk-infused Prog Metal expanding a tradition from the Middle East that includes bands like ORPHANED LAND and MYRATH, Constantin Glantz's SOUL ENEMA is a huge surprise and revelation to me. This man can write great songs melding seemlessly the electronic sounds of metal music with the traditional folk instruments of his culture. Plus, he's not afraid to push the envelope with his lyrics. And my introduction to the vocal talents of Noa Gruman is quite welcome!

1. "Omon Ra" (7:02) a great opening song for the way in which it lays out on the table all of the amazing chops this band has: metal, electronic effects, traditional Middle Eastern instruments and melodies, powerful top notch female singer, refined and adventurous compositional skills, instrumental prowess top to bottom, and, not least, their acerbic-yet-insightful lyrics. Though it's a long song, it keeps one's attention start-to-finish. The cinematic "interlude" in the sixth minute followed by the re-amped djenty guitars and great guitar/keyboard solos over the top are wonderful--making the song end even better than it started. This could be called a "perfect" prog metal song. (10/10)

2. "Cannibalissimo Ltd." (5:59) What lyrics! Bold and hilarious--but meaningful in their metaphoric sense. Plus, supported by such quirky, unexpected music (starting out like JOE JACKSON's "Cancer" before adding the metal and, later, Middle Eastern folk sounds!) Again, the song showcases the marvelous talent of lead singer Noa Gruman. She is so versatile! And the growls are perfect--humorous while not going over the top. And leader/songwriter Constantin Glantz is quite a keyboard player! (9/10)

3. "Spymania" (6:44) Yet another style used here! Almost comic book cinematic, almost Prog Cabaret! Again, I love the lyrics and their metaphoric significance. Great melodic hooks. Awesome guitar soloing and vocal work in the fourth minute. What a songwriter! (9.5/10)

4. "Breaking the Waves" (5:37) If this song is about what I think it is about, this is a song that needs radio play-- needs to get out there to provoke conversations about the mistreatment of women (by men). Gorgeous and powerful! Man, can this woman sing! (9/10)

5. "The Age of Cosmic Baboon" (4:33) opening like a Middle Eastern belly dancing song, this one maintains its foundation of Middle Eastern instrumentation (with some interesting synth work woven into the mix) until the 1:50 mark when metal chords and drum hits in a syncopated time signature, take over. Crazed piano solo (know DON PULLEN) in the background, before settling into a kind of combined modern/traditional mix of the two styles. Congas and accordion and monkey squawks help fill out the final couple minutes. (8/10)

6. "In Bed With an Enemy" (5:59) piano-based metal with one of the weaker melodic and harmonic constructions on the album, it's hard for me to get into this one for the first couple minutes. Nice synth and guitar soloing in the third and final minutes. Love the flute in the third-fourth. The dynamic shift in the fourth minute is awesome (and very welcome). More of the talents of singer Noa Gruman on display in the vocals in the second half. (8/10)

7. "Last Days of Rome" (4:22) melodic metal opening with machine gun bass drum. Quickly everything cuts out and we're left cabaret piano and female vocal. When the chorus section begins at 1:23 the songs full sound comes into display. Again, the lyrics are brave and bold (and controversial?). Musically, this is not so special. Lyrically it's remarkable. (7.5/10)

8. "Dear Bollock (Was a Sensitive Man)" (3:10) opens with very Middle Eastern folk sound--instruments as well as time signatures and tempo. The tongue-in-cheek male vocal is brilliant--as are the reality-checking metal bars after each verse. I love all these Eastern instruments! And the lyrics are wonderful! Again, so bold and courageous! Kudos, Constantin, for being so brave! (9/10)

9. "Aral Sea I - Feeding Hand" (8:48) awesome bells foundation over and around which all other styles and sounds build for the first 1:50. When things quiet down to bare bones Noa enters with a serious tone to tell us the historic and legendary story of this part of the world (and its people?). The "demonic" presence in the sixth minute is a bit ambiguous, but then the amp up afterward is powerful. Plays out like a classic prog rock song. (8.5/10)

10. "Aral Sea II - Dustbin of History" (5:30) the presence of amazing guitarist/multi-stringed instrumentalist YOSSI SASSI on this one makes me tune in with extra attention (I love his work--both solo and with ORPHANED LAND). A cool foray through many instrumental paths, the music seems quite fitting for the story being told--especially in the way the old informs and haunts the present. As seems to be a trend with my hearing of this band, the final couple of minutes are my favorite. (8.5/10)

11. "Aral Sea III - Epilogue" (6:25) minor-keyed piano-based opening sets up an impassioned vocal from Noa Gruman--perhaps her finest performance on the album. (9/10)

12. "Octopus Song" (2:54) opens as if we're going to hear an upbeat, gentle pop song, but then the main structure kicks in and Noa sings in a middle range letting us know that she is singing seriously. Still, the song does sound a bit like something out of a Broadway stage musical. Fortunately, Noa has the voice to carry a song in the way a Broadway singer must. (9/10)

13. "Eternal Child" (5:35) piano-based, this song opens like we're about to hear a tear-jerking ballad. Noa's whispery, almost sultry voice confirms it. What a voice! Even the over-the-top NINA HAGEN-like strains at the high reaches sound and feel affected and part of the performance, while there are also moments of pure beauty. Nice guitar solo in the fourth minute. Gorgeous song though it never really goes anywhere special. (8.5/10)

14. "Of Clans and Clones and Clowns" (0:42) a spoken (whispered) poem over nature sounds which gives us insight into the reasons for choosing the themes and title of the album .

In the wonderful traditions of ORPHANED LAND and MYRATH, SOUL ENEMA gives us an amazing inside view into the Middle Eastern mind and soul. I am a fan!

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 Messages from Afar: First Contact by KARFAGEN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.24 | 45 ratings

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Messages from Afar: First Contact
Karfagen Symphonic Prog

Review by Han

4 stars The musicly masterbrain Anthony Kalugin has done it again! His child Karfagen grew and grew and reached the point of being adolescent. What a fine album this has become. Ive seen Anthony play live wirh Kargagen/Sunchild at the Progdreams V festival at culuurpodium Boerderij Zoetermeer, Netherlands. Line-up Focus, Mastery, Dave Kerzner, District97 and others. Mindblowing live performance, great musicianship by all members of the band. They deserve to be headliner someday! If you like instrumental prog this new album is a must have. Listen and close your eyes and drift away into a world of messages from afar and make first contact with Karfagen.

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 Origins by EXISTENCE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.18 | 10 ratings

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Origins
Existence Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars I have just taken from my shelves the second Existence album, 'Small People, Short Story, True Crime', which was released in 1999. The CD had made a huge impact on me at the time, as not only had I enjoyed playing it, but it came with a 56-page booklet/magazine! That was a hugely ambitious undertaking for anyone, let alone a band that wasn't known to many within the prog scene, let alone a wider music buying audience (and it tickles me that they advertise Mystery within it, they are both Canadian after all). So, a short eighteen years later, and the guys are back with the third album.

But, in a very many ways this is full circle, as what is represented here is in many ways the roots of the band, hence the album title. When Existence emerged in 1992, their gigs comprised a rock opera, broken into two acts. The first act was recorded and released as their debut album, 'Fragile Whisperings of Innocence' in 1994, but the second act was never recorded as the band moved on. By the time Alan Charles decided to record the second act it was 2010, and when comparing the recordings, he realised that the right thing to do was to rearrange and re-record everything to make it a consistent whole. Alan provides piano, keyboards, guitar and bass and returning from the last album is Gérard Lévèque (drums), François Beaugard (violin) and Gaston Gagnon (guitars) and they are joined by Valery Kim Gosselin (vocals) and Richard Ranger (bass).

The booklet may not be nearly as large as the last one, but it has been put together with care and contains all the lyrics with suitable photographs: the focus here is on the music contained on the two CDs. Unlike many progressive bands, the music here is led by the piano. Although turned into a full electric band performance, the piano is always at the heart and soul of Existence, with the lead instrument often being the poignant violin. The hidden instrument in this band is emotion, as the music is dripping with it, from the cracking of the vocals through the arrangements. This makes them very different from other bands within the prog scene, as the approach is towards feelings that are being conveyed, instead of just an aural assault. Complex and complicated, it must have been a compelling experience when the band were performing it live some 25 years ago.

With their two earlier albums released before the advent of the internet and prog sites and forums, back in the day when fanzines like Feedback were the only way to get the news out there as mainstream media ignored or denigrated prog, it is of little surprise that very few people are aware of the existence of Existence. Hopefully the release of this album will gain them many new fans, and we won't have to wait so long for the next one. Well worth investigation.

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 Foxtrot by GENESIS album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.60 | 3264 ratings

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Foxtrot
Genesis Symphonic Prog

Review by FalconBleck

5 stars #7 Review

This album came to me as a surprise, when i first heard Genesis, i jumped straight over this album for some reason, and when i was able to listen to it... i wasn't really fond of it, the intro was nice, but everything else i ignored for some reason, then lightning struck and a signal from heaven came to show me a Supper's Ready video live performance, and i was amazed...

1.- Watcher of the Skies 8/10 This score might be seen as low for this song, but my problem is that the bass and guitar repeat too much the same parts, it's still an impresive song, the lyrics are aweosome and well executed, the Mellotron is doing it's job, i want a Mellotron mostly because of this song. The song starts to change little by little and comes into an impactful conclusion, really nice song, i just wished that they went with the song mostly like the last part, more changes.

2.- Time Table 8/10 Good lyrics and a really pretty song, it's really peaceful, a song that i would listen in a restaurant while looking at the sea with a woman that has a head of a wolf? But i remove 2 points because i feel like the song lacks more moments to make a difference.

3.- Get 'em Out by Friday 8/10 Really impresive at the start and then it goes with a really nice rythm that feels really industrial but the instruments make it feel natural in its own right, then it goes passive, back to chorus and back to pasive, this song doesn't move me that much because at some parts the lyrics get to theatrical, like they're being read instead of singed, but that's a minor part, then the song gets a little repetitive. The flute solo near the end is good tho.

4.- Can-Utility and the Coastliners 10/10 This is the song that made me listen to this album in the first place, it's absolutely well done, every member of the band shows their capacities in some time, and the song sounds pretty sweet. Songs like these show the talent of Genesis, and this also shows that the band could've used more Steve Hacket's talent!

5.- Horizons 10/10 And in the topic of Steve Hacket, here it is, pure talent, a song completely made and played by him, his own space in this album and maybe in the entire career of the band, playing like a piano on guitar, it's pretty nice to play it on the piano too, but in guitar is a completely different story. And i said, when i die, i want this song to be played at my funeral.

6.- Supper's Ready (in general) 10/10 Where do i start? I remember hearing that the band was afraid of doing more suites because of this majestic song that left the bar really high... this song is that epic! Majestic play by Tony Banks on the 12-string guitar? Yes, he was all this time the one that made that incredible first section, and then he goes into the piano and plays 4/4 while the band is on 9/8? He does all of that and more, and the rest of the crew are here at their best. This love song than suddenly turns into a happy song about war (?) then gets absolutely depresive, then crazy, then infernal and finally pretty emotional, in an epic finale. There is not another song like this anywhere, this is Genesis.

The final score is... 90/100, so it is obviusly an essential 5 star ranking.

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 Ever After by SANHEDRIN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 134 ratings

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Ever After
Sanhedrin Eclectic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars According to Merriam-Webster, Sanhedrin is the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews during postexilic times headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction. That's the sort of all encompassing portfolio that can raise hackles, and indeed this instrumental band is all over the map, with CAMEL, FOCUS, and KING CRIMSON being among the classic acts they might cite as influences. They also appear to owe some debt to jazz and fusion. The primary instrumentation is organ, electric guitar, and flute, with bass also offering melodic counterpoint. The passages alternate from reflective to chaotic. While these attributes might shout CAMEL from the temple tops, that band's compositions tended to be rather tight and with an underlying theme on which the members would expound, while SANHENDRIN seems more interested in going with the flow and seeing where they end up. As such, "Ever After" appeals to me as a collection of sonic ventures that are offered up with precision and skill, but they don't appear to begin, end, or transition between beginning and end with any authority. The Levine tribunal council has passed judgement - 3 stars for the journey

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 Reflections Of A Floating World by ELDER album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.94 | 32 ratings

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Reflections Of A Floating World
Elder Heavy Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Hailing from Boston, these heavy proggers toe an almost-grungy LED ZEPPELIN line as they jam along--never less than eight minutes. The band has great ideas, great aspirations, and a great sound, however, I see room for growth: more sophistication, more diversity in singing styles (or voices), and maybe even some improvement in recording engineering (bringing things more forward in the mix.

1. "Sanctuary" (11:14) opens with a delightful chunky heaviness that is lost a little during guitar soloing--a midsection that sounds a LOT like a cross between 1970s LED ZEPPELIN and THIN LIZZY. The vocals could be a little stronger, more prominent. (8.5/10)

2. "The Falling Veil" (11:13) opens with some gentle "get to know me" front-porch guitar picking before the song leaps into full gear in a SEVEN IMPALE and LED ZEPPELIN way. The spacious, "far away" effect on the vocal is more appropriate for this heavy rocker. I LOVE the soft, down section in the eighth minute and the Mellotron-drenched section that follows. This song just keeps better the longer it plays! Reminds me a lot of the power and talent of GHOST MEDICINE's Jared Leach. (9/10)

3. "Staving Off Truth "(10:18) beautiful opening before bursting into a djenty tour de force at 1:15. By the time the vocals join in, the song has settled into a kind of ALICE IN CHAINS sound and feel. Awesome! Another awesome down tempo section begins at the end of the fifth minute and turns into a cool YES/ALLMAN BROTHERS section thanks to the pedal steel guitar. Around 6:30 things revert back to the AinC style/sound only with a less insistent vocal, but then at 7:03 things shift into a brief two-guitar picking distant drum section before amping back up into the heavier stuff (again reminding me of a heavier THIN LIZZY). Nice drumming on display on this one! (9/10)

4. "Blind" (13:24) opens with the sound so mucked up that I thought something was wrong with my headphones' connection the first time I heard it. But after about half a minute the "joke" is played out and the rockin' groove comes forth in full force and full focus. Unexpectedly, soon after all instruments save for an "distant" electric piano and organ/synth drop out while a distant voice sings in a newsy voice. Once he finishes stating his plaintive case, the grunge returns--and eventually the singer sings--in the same voice and mix using the same melody as before--over the heavy stuff. At 4:30 there is shift into a section based on an arpeggiated riff from the electric piano. The drums shift and the rest of the band gradually join in pumping out another great multi-guitar weave of heavy prog. Nice, interesting song full of unexpected shifts and turns. The final two minutes is the real highlight with a crashing meeting of passion coming from all the instrumentalists at the same time, yielding an awesome crescendo. (8.5/10)

5. "Sonntag" (8:40) I get the Krautrock references to this song but the instrumental contributions here are a little too sparse, unchanging, and the groove not as hypnotizing as many great German songs of the 1970s. Plus, there are a couple of times that the drummer seems to loose his concentration, connection, or enthusiasm for the kind of Jaki Liebezeit beat the song really requires. (8/10)

6. "Thousand Hands" (9:37) One of my favorite prog epics of the year--thanks in no small part to some great guitar weaves, great drumming, awesome Mellotron use, catchy chord progressions and melodies, and the most fitting vocals on the album! Another song in which the second half surpasses the (awesome) first half. (9.5/10)

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and certainly a band with tremendous potential. Though I liked their previous release, Lore, better, I am not displeased with this slight shift in direction--and I can't wait to see what they do next!

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 Starman / John, I'm Only Dancing by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1972
2.95 | 2 ratings

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Starman / John, I'm Only Dancing
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I feel this single deserves a favourable review, since the only rating so far is two (?!) stars. Why, 'Starman' is simply a lovely Bowie classic! It may be rather naiive, but in a charming way. I guess it's among his best known songs, so no need to get into details. A little minus comes for the "laa la-laa la-laa" part going on and on a bit too long in the end. The song appeared on Bowie's breakthrough album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

'John, I'm Only Dancing' (not on any album originally, if I'm not mistaken) was also made into a promotional video at the time, and it has been featured on several Bowie compilations. A nice average song, not among his best, but nor is it one of his least interesting hits either. 3½ stars, rounded down on a prog site.

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 Live - Rockin' the Ritz by 3 album cover Live, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Live - Rockin' the Ritz
3 Crossover Prog

Review by OldSchoolProg

— First review of this album —
4 stars For a band that had one studio album and one tour, this is their 2nd official live release. Sounding better than the Live in Boston, and different enough in the performance to be unique, this original 1988 radio broadcast cleaned up nicely and show the power that this band had in concert, purposely playing smaller venues. With Emerson at the top of his game, the speed that he and Carl Palmer, along with Robert Berry, present old ELP instrumental classics and new 3 songs, and even a couple covers. To hear Emerson play Dream Runner, Creole Dance and On My Way Home on the piano is spectacular and worth the purchase itself. Love or hate the studio album, the band in a live setting is great, and this release REALLY captures that energy. The liner notes from Palmer and Berry and pictures are also a fitting tribute to the late great Keith Emerson.

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 44 1/2 Live + Unreleased Works Box Set by ART ZOYD album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
5.00 | 3 ratings

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44 1/2 Live + Unreleased Works Box Set
Art Zoyd RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

5 stars Over the years my musical tastes have broadened, which is probably both a good and a bad thing when one is as much of a musical addict as I am. A quick check on the Mac tells me I have more than 11,000 albums, a terabyte of music, stored there, and that doesn't include all the CDs and vinyl in the study. Over the years I have taken advice from both critics and friends, and have investigated music that I should have known much earlier in life. I don't know how or where, but at some point, I became aware of Art Zoyd, and their 1976 album 'Symphonie Pour Le Jour Où Brûleront Les Cités', and from then on, I have been a keen investigator of their works as they are like nothing else I have come across, although they are often cited within the RIO movement. So, when I heard that Cuneiform (one of my favourite labels) was going to release a set containing 12 CDs, 2 DVDs, 2 books and 2 posters I knew that I just had to have it. This was a huge undertaking for the label, as the set was going to be the largest and most artistically lavish project they ha dever been part of, and consequently they checked with fans to see if they would purchase it before they went ahead with the deal, and luckily enough there are enough people with discerning taste to make this a reality in November.

The tale told by '44½' incorporates everything from decades-old demos for brilliant but abandoned pieces to live recordings of multimedia extravaganzas involving film, theatre, and more. It encompasses intimate trio performances as well as full orchestral assaults featuring dozens of musicians in full flight. It offers explosive industrial soundscapes and sweeping symphonic surges, quiet dread and monumental wallop, delicate acoustic chamber pieces and bustling electronic outbursts. Art Zoyd has always been a band in flux, not only stylistically but in terms of personnel as well. Countless musicians have come and gone through the band's ranks over the years, but most of them can be heard here, with core players like bassist/cellist Thierry Zaboitzeff, trumpeter Jean-Pierre Soarez, keyboardist Patricia Dallio, and violinist/keyboardist Gérard Hourbette providing the through-line. On recordings that go all the way back to 1975, this sprawling set - you can't capture the gist of an ensemble like this without going heroically deep - spotlights the multitude of ways in which Art Zoyd blazed a trail unquestionably their own. Their constantly shifting sound was even a million miles from their RIO comrades, let alone anything even minutely more conventional. They've always been left field of the left field, the maverick's mavericks, and if anything, this set underlines just how diligently they've pursued that grand idiosyncrasy decade after decade, offering new views of their evolution in the bargain.

The packaging is amazing, the music incredible, the production spot on. This is simply indispensable for anyone who have ever wanted their music to be real and not plastic. If ever there was an example of a label showing that they are there for the fans, for those who love what they do and are proud of it, as opposed to searching for the next big thing, then Cuneiform are it. I am proud to say that I have been involved with the label for more than twenty years, and the guys never cease to amaze me with their search for the very best in music, but this time they have outdone themselves. It may take months to get through everything in the box, to read the books, and truly understand what this band means in terms of the history of modern music and the impact they have had, but it is time very well spent indeed. It simply doesn't get any better, or any more complete, than this. It is impossible to imagine what else Cuneiform could have done to make this release any more essential than it is.

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 Divided We Fall by BLACK NOODLE PROJECT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.45 | 14 ratings

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Divided We Fall
The Black Noodle Project Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

5 stars Four years on from their last album and Jérémie Grima (guitars, voice, programming) and Sébastien Bourdeix (guitars) are back with the sixth studio album. They are the only survivors from the line-up that recorded 'Ghosts & Memories', and here they are joined by Tommy Rizzitelli (drums) and Frédéric Motte (bass). The band was originally a solo outing by Jérémie, and we were first in contact at about the time of the debut album back in 2004. I have always enjoyed their music, but this time they appear to have taken it to another level. They have always been heavily influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, but this time I believe we need to add Muse to the mix plus a real feeling of self-awareness and control. Heavily instrumental, this is an emotional album with the guitar often at the forefront, with just a few notes plucked from the ether to create something that is very special indeed.

From the very first sounds of "Isolation" I felt that I was onto something very special indeed and decided to not listen to the album until I could sit and give it the sole attention it deserved. I decided against headphones, but instead sat quietly in the middle of a room and let the sound wash over me (accompanied just by a rather large glass of rum, just to keep me company). There is a presence and self-control in this album that other bands need to pay attention to: there is no need to play five thousand notes to the bar when every note is placed with such perfection. There is a deep melancholy within this, with emotions let rampant, and a crying guitar that David Gilmour would be proud of. I have found it hard to write the review as I keep stopping just to bask in the splendour of this release.

It may have come out right at the end of the year, but possibly that makes it the perfect Christmas present for the discerning proghead who doesn't know what he/she is missing out on? They riff when they need to, and there is so much space within the layers that the proverbial truck could waltz right through, while the rhythm section not only when to crunch into life, but also when to sit quietly drinking their caf' au lait, and let the two guys at the front create some real magic. Album of the year? Well, there have been some great releases and I would have to go back and play them all to be sure. But, easily in my Top Ten and I have reviewed nearly 600 in 2017. Wonderful, amazing, indispensable, and if you enjoy any of the bands listed above then you simply have to get this

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 Messages from Afar: First Contact by KARFAGEN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.24 | 45 ratings

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Messages from Afar: First Contact
Karfagen Symphonic Prog

Review by Cylli Kat (0fficial)

4 stars Okay, my bad... (Really, really, really bad)... Usually, I will ALWAYS adhere to the listen and delete after 24 hours rule...

Four days later... This is still blaring through my stereo... I think (correction: KNOW) I'm going to have to shell out the money for this... Think: Pink Floyd - A Momentary Lapse of Reason Part II... But, decidedly different... There are some guitar and compositional bits that so remind me of David Gilmour, Steve Hackett, and then, some bits that remind me of Steve Howe... The album starts of with a vibe of "Learning to Fly", and moves on almost into a mid-period Yes... I'm much better with a guitar than words... All I can tell you is that this is a high quality album, and well worth your time..

I'm a guitar player, and a horrible reviewer of albums... (Sorry)... BUT: I know what I like; and I love this!!! If you can find it, give this a test run...

Well worth the time and money...

As always, your actual mileage may vary...

Grace and peace, Cylli (Jim Calistro)

4.62 on the progarchives score I love this, you may not...

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 Pike 273 - Guillotine Furance by BUCKETHEAD album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Pike 273 - Guillotine Furance
Buckethead Prog Related

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

— First review of this album —
4 stars For those of us who are actually keeping up with the prolific world of BUCKETHEAD, it is a chore indeed to keep up with his incessant flow of albums in the never-ending PIKE series but after his release of "Pike 272 - Coniunctio" at the end of August, 2017 there has been an unexpected multi-month silence from the chicken lover most likely due to a touring schedule where i finally got to see dude in a live setting. While 2017 will not come anywhere close to his million albums of 2015, finally in December, BH releases his 30th album of the year

PIKE 273 - GUILLOTINE FURNACE. This is another one of those albums where every track has the title of the album only with an added "Part 1" all the way up to "Part 8." And like the majority of these types of albums, all these parts are really just, well, parts of a much longer track that takes up the whole album that clocks in at 28 minutes and 3 seconds but each "part" is really just snippets of smaller "parts" so in effect this is basically a bizarre display of surreality in full avant-garde mode

"Part 1" starts things off with a clucking keyboard part before a little solo erupts and gives way to a barrage of riffs interrupted periodically by electronic noises of various sorts. Sometimes these can deviate into pure ambient passages that totally shifts the mood into another musical universe. After a few of these it's apparent that this is one of those albums that shifts around from different styles willy nilly with no rhyme or reason. The initial guitar riffs pop in from time to time to remind you that the music no longer resides there but then it bounces around from funk to post-rock to blues rock and so forth

As "Part 2" begins it shifts from the bombastic soling that the previous track exited with and provides a serene ambient soundscape before erupting into alternative metal, industrial metal and some sort of avant-garde funk metal that is followed by good old fashioned funk for a while and then more riffing. Things change it up often and quickly as one style sticks around for a short time and then is replaced by another. Sometimes being weird electronically tinged funk and at other times being face-melting solos over bluesy metal. It only gets weirder and wilder with more disparate genre styles and experimental features peeking in and out of the incessant parade of changing-it-up

While "Part 3" begins with a processed funky bass followed by an eruption of guitar virtuosity, it becomes apparent that i would have to write a million word review to catalogue every single style shift that occurs with this one so in short, there's no need to chronicle this wickedly wild roller coaster ride into the avant-garde. This is one that is best experienced to believe as it's just too fertile and ambitious for words to convey. Just expect a wild ride where nothing stays same for long. The melodies change, the dynamics change, the tempos, the genres, the rhythms, the instruments, the time signatures, they all change it up and often

This is not the first style of eclectic excess that BH has done in this fashion but it remains one of my favorite types of albums where absolutely anything goes and the only constant is the unexpected. Another renegade egg has hatched and is growing up quickly into a beastly monster that cannot be contained. Be warned. This is really a musical trojan horse trying to take control of our brains. Oh my, i suddenly feel the urge to drive to the country and hang out with chickens. Oh nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

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 The Source by AYREON album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.88 | 166 ratings

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The Source
Ayreon Progressive Metal

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

4 stars Modern progressive music icon Arjen Anthony Lucassen returns in 2017 with `The Source', the ninth studio album under his Ayreon project banner. Another double CD sci-fi concept work that has the Dutch multi-instrumentalist joined by a range of vocalists and guest musicians, `The Source' is a return to the stronger heavy metal sound of most previous Ayreon works after 2013's `The Theory of Everything' removed much of the harder riffing (it's certainly a heavy rock opera, but definitely not a `prog-metal' album at all!), but like that same album, Lucasssen has gone all `Tales from Topographic Oceans' again and served up four side-long multi-suite pieces of twenty-plus minutes in length (labelled as `Chronicles' here), and it's one of his most ambitious and varied works to date.

Everyone loves prequels, right?! Well, sarcasm aside, with `The Source', Arjen offers a tale set before all the previous albums, detailing a planet overrun by a computer given artificial intelligence and the protagonists of this apocalyptic story fleeing to start a new life on strange alien worlds, and the challenges that come with that. It's a little silly, but admirably richly realised by ambitious lyrics presented through a range of characters given voice by vocalists from various prog and metal-related acts such as Nightwish, Epica, Edguy, Blind Guardian, Mr Big, Dream Theater and others, as well as boasting musical contributions from players in Marillion, the Aristocrats, After Forever and more. But front and center is multi-instrumentalist Lucassen, a performer of immense skill and variety, and he and his musical companions have delivered another sterling musical and artistic statement.

For `Chronicle 1: The 'Frame', a moody scene-setting premonition delivered by Jamie Labrie introduces the first three track arc. The twelve and a half minute proper opener `The Day the World Breaks Down' is frantic and pounding, a crash of fancy violin-lifted orchestral-like overtures obliterated by relentless heavy-metal riffing, dazzling synth runs and breathless vocal histrionics. The second half coasts into a reflective interlude of bluesy guitar and sparkling piano, that also reminds that the best Ayreon moments are when the various fragments hold tight compact tunes with recurring choruses that serve as stand- alone songs in their own right. Folk-tinged prettiness weaves in and out of `Sea of Machines' gutsy crunch, and the malevolently over-dramatic `Everybody Dies' mixes in everything from Dream Theater-like bombast given a touch of retro- prog keyboards and playful back-and-forth vocal responses (there's definitely a touch of Queen buried in there too), and it sounds like Arjen might have been listening to those rollicking symphonic fanfares of the classic early Italian prog PFM albums!

Despite its bludgeoning mud-thick riffing and rousing repeated chorus, the chiming guitars throughout the opening movement of the Second Chronicle's `Star Of Sirrah' remind of both Pink Floyd's `Sheep' and Porcupine Tree's `Time Flies'. `All That Was' is a swooning violin female-fronted folk ballad with heavier bursts that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Lucassen's Gentle Storm album `The Diary' from 2015, and unsurprisingly with its title, `Run! Apocalypse! Run!' (just look at all those exclamation marks!) is a dizzying maddening sprint of runaway break-neck keyboard soloing, crushing guitars and wailing frantic vocals. This first disc concludes with `Condemned To Live' that mixes in everything from stark vocal contemplations, moody cello and violin backings to its heavy drama.

`Chronicle 3 - The Transmigration' and its opening passage `Aquatic Race' kick off with some hilariously shrieking boisterous multi-vocal choruses frequently reprised throughout, and some snarling metal riffs that remind of Black Sabbath are broken up by dreamier interludes. While `The Dream Dissolves' is mostly a luxurious folk-flecked ballad, it culminates in a glorious synth solo from Mark Kelly that harkens back to the early years of his own band Marillion, and alongside a sleek electric guitar solo from Suncaged's Marcel Coenen, the duo deliver a classic sounding pure Neo Prog climax. Eastern-flavoured vocal drones, operatic purrs and a pinch of Jethro Tull-like flute weave throughout `Deathcry Of A Race', and `Into The Ocean' is a ballsy Hammond-dominated pounding arena rocker that falls somewhere between Deep Purple and the Dio-fronted era of Black Sabbath!

`Chronicle 4 - The Rebirth', `Bay Of Dreams' creeps with pulsing electronic programming and glistening guitars as it grows in power, and `Planet Y Is Alive!' is one of the most amusing moments of the disc, a thrashing blast of crunching drumming and an absurdly delirious chorus (and a spacey guitar solo in the instrumental break from The Aristocrats' Guthrie Govan is lovely)! The reflective ballad `The Source Will Flow' floats with a multitude of dreamy harmonies from several of the singers, the joyous and vocally gospel-tinged `Journey To Forever' is tinged with ringing mandolin among its chugging riffing, and `The Human Compulsion' is a final heavy curtain call for all the performers before the gloomy electronic fragment `March Of The Machines' and its eerie spoken word finale wrap the disc in a surprisingly dark and intense manner.

As always with the Ayreon works, there's a touch of kitsch and amusing over-seriousness that sometimes renders parts of the music a little overwrought and hammy (yet Arjen himself is very amusing and self-deprecating!), but there's such a conviction and attention to detail to the material here, and it's also extremely admirable that Lucassen is so proud of his prog-rock self- indulgences! The reliance on metal elements means that `The Source' perhaps doesn't have the versatility or crossover appeal that `The Theory of Everything' might have had for a wider audience, and on the surface it looks a little intimidating trying to approach its eighty-eight minute length, but constant replays reveal a sweeping, grand work that successfully flows between passages and belts you around the head with its attacking heaviness. Ayreon fans are sure to love it, and its another very accomplished, slick and bombastic masterwork from the reigning king of grandiose metal storytelling.

Four and a half stars.

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 Flow by NOVATIA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Flow
Novatia Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars The Dutch band from Utrecht continues its progression with a delightful EP that further enhances its originality, expert musicinas looking to blend various styles into a whole new style. ''Flow'' has 5 new pieces that are even more subtle than their previous efforts, compositions that are smooth as silk with jazzy tinges, a funky bass governance and some sparkling guitar leads. Am I alone in enjoying this unique band , I hope not because the prog world would be missing out on quite a treat! Keyboardist Ingmar Kops uses more piano and e-piano to carpet the arrangements, which enhances the elegance of the tracks presented, relying on Fabian van Dijk's thick bass undertow, Joost Lobbes insistent drum presence and Rindert Bul's magic guitar weavings. Once again, lead vocalist Joep Selen offers up plenty of emotion and delicacy in his delivery, at times gentle and others more forceful, hinting at a proggier version of Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet) . This is a special band that adds plenty of sunshine to my listening hours.

Inspired by painter Vincent van Gogh's ''Terrace of a cafe at night'' tableau , the 6 minute ''The Night is Filled with Colours'' is overflowing (sic) with velvety tonal shades , depicting a story about a man aimlessly walking through some obscure French village , looking for inspiration for his artistic craft and finally, around a hidden corner, boom! There it is! Gentle keyboard flutters augur in a kaleidoscope of detailed sounds , with tolling guitars welded to ecentric piano motifs , shifty bass and drum structures, enhanced by a main melody expertly navigated by Joep Selen, each section more powerful than the previous, the manic guitar raising the bar constantly, with insistent flair. Smooth guitar soloing only heightens the bliss, perfectly interspaced to maximum effect.

Perhaps the proggiest piece up to now in their catalog, ''Between Lines'' is a sad tirade that illustrates all the negativity so many are attracted to in our 21st paradise of apathy, an existential social malaise that has now gone global, offering the choice of abject surrender or brave courage. Musically, the mood is ponderous at first, quickly turning into manifest rage, with synths whistling despair and guitars tortured by rage. Joep spits his barely hidden venom, his voice and words highlighting the fury, the screeching axe solo carving deep into the soul, trembling and electric. Seven minutes of terrific and adventurous music.

Three shorter songs come into play, each a window of opportunity to continually search for new horizons, making 'flowing' music according to their own tastes and not dictated by big business or elevator muzak demands.

''May We Interrupt'' evolved from the need to jam and discover new sounds , here expertly led by a joyous electric piano romp , chugging guitars that twang and a lilting beat that welds molten jazzy fusion to a solid pop and rock structure , let's say even a slight Steely Dan feel. A whistling synth solo adds pizzaz to the deal.

''This Drive'' slithers into funkier realms, with the bass predominant, the melody bright and impassionate and a sunny howling vocal. Bassist Van Dijk does some thick slapping to give this even more 'drive' , while Selen reaches for some high notes, urging to take it even higher if needed.

The EP ends with ''Before Autumn Comes'', a sad song about choices , about depression and the courage it takes to overcome expectations, the downward spiral that reminds us all of our frail humanity. The atmosphere is chill, laid- back and ponderous. There is a raw feel here, quite minimalist with sweeping synth carpets, shimmering drum patterns and a gentle disposition. A beautiful piece of music , heartfelt (something this band does very well) and unpretentious.

Novatia has all the hallmarks of a tight band that has the musical goods to put together a world class progressive album and properly take a seat in the prog congress of stars, if their first 3 EPs are any indication. There is no reason why Novatia should not please the more melodic prog fan, as they deliver the goods and have all the instrumental gusto to stay along for a long 'flowing' ride.

4.5 waves

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 Messages from Afar: First Contact by KARFAGEN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.24 | 45 ratings

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Messages from Afar: First Contact
Karfagen Symphonic Prog

Review by MalenaRoss

5 stars Our world is quite wonderful in oh so many different varieties: feelings and smells, colors and emotions - all that are in our daily life can also appear in music. All these emotions and feelings you can "taste" when listening to Karfagen's album "Messages from Afar: First Contact". This opus is full of haunting popular motives. With Karfagen's unique individual harmonies and complexity within its compositional structures. From the very first heartbeat it's music takes you to another reality a different plain, where you so easily greet the sky and brush the wind, crossing the night skyline. You are astonished by the evolving change of picturesque landscapes. Ascensional lines of bass with syncopate guitars alternate with magic saxophone and much more mysterious voices from vale of dreams and golden fields of rye. Whilst the music rocks nothing can disturb your flight. However, when the travelling finally ends your mind is fully loaded like a rainbow in the brightest sky: boundless thoughts - that brings us so many messages from afar?Highly recommend to listening!

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 13 by BLACK SABBATH album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.71 | 274 ratings

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13
Black Sabbath Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Butler, Iommi and Ozzy reunited at last to construct what they were acutely aware may be the final Black Sabbath studio album, and perhaps under such circumstances it's understandable that they decided to take a long look backwards. Compare the structure of album opener End of the Beginning and the title track from the debut, for instance, and they're really rather similar, and final track Dear Father fades out into the sounds of a rainy thunderstorm just as the debut album faded in on one, tying the whole saga up in a blow.

In between those bookends, the boys deliver an album which, whilst I don't think it will ever rank on the same level as their early-1970s classics, is a more than appropriate swansong, taking the traditional metal style they originated and making it sing one last time and proving that they can still play slow, crushingly doomy metal which wouldn't sound out of place in a mix with Electric Wizard or Warning. If this truly is the end, it's not a bad way to go.

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