Friday, October 16, 2020

21st Century RPI

In the spirit of Prog being alive and well in the 21st Century, I have compiled a list of modern-day Rock Progressivo Italiano releases ordered according to my personal metric ratings system. I am by no means an expert in the sub-genre, but have grown in appreciation and awareness of the significant contribution our Italian brethren, old and young, have made to progressive rock over the past two decades.  


LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO La notte anche de giorno (2015) - 95.79
PROMENADE Noi al dir di noi (2017) 93.42


IL TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE Il Tempio delle Clessidre (2010) - 92.27
LA BOCA DELLA VERITÀ Avenoth (2016) - 91.875  
ACCORDO DEI CONTRARI Violato intatto (2017) - 91.43
INGRANAGGI DELLA VALLE Warm Spaced Blue (2016) - 91.13
L'ESTATE DI SAN MARTINO Talsete di Marsantino (2012) - 90.83
MAD CRAYON Preda (2009) - 90.58
UBI MAIOR Bestie, Uomini, e Dèi (2020) - 90.55
LAGARTIJA Particelle (2011) - 90.52
AKT Blemmebeya (2011) - 90.48
PANDORA Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco (2008) - 90.40

UNREAL CITY La crudelta di Aprile (2013) - 90.0
MOOGG Le ore, i giorni, gli anni (2011) - 90.0
NOT A GOOD SIGN Not A Good Sign (2013) - 90.0
EMPTY DAYS Empty Days (2013) - 90.0
NOT A GOOD SIGN Icebound (2018) - 90.0

AKT II (Binario) (2016) - 89.52
SYNDONE Odysséas (2014) - 89.32 
INGRANAGGI DELLA VALLE In hoc signo (2013) - 89.10
RANDONE Hybla Act 1 (2005) - 88.87
 Il Grande Labirinto (2003) - 88.85
HUMANA PROG Flori, Frutti, Farfalle (2014) - 88.70
FEM Sulla bolla di Sapone (2014) - 88.70
LA DOTTRINA DEGLI OPPOSTI Arrivederci Sogni (2018) - 88.63
LA MASCHERA DI CERA S.E.I. (2020) - 88.61
ELLESMERE Wyrd (2020) - 88.53
IL CASTELLO DI ATLANTE Cap. 7 - Tra Le Antiche Mura (2009) - 88.46
FEM Mutazione (2018) - 88.42
DELIRIUM Il nome del vento (2009) - 88.40
LOGOS Sadako e le mille gru di carta (2020) - 87.92
MINSTREL Faust (2000) - 87.22
LA CURVA DI LESMO La Curva di Lesmo (2015) - 86.67

MALIBRAN Oltre l'Ignoto (2001) - 86.14
instrumental) Stati di immaginazione (2006) - 85.75 
LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO Sensitività (2013) - 85.43
LA MASCHERA DI CERA La Maschera di Cera (2002) - 85.29
LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO Una Vita Migliore (2018) - 83.53

LOGOS L'Enigma della vita (2014) - 82.75
SYNDONE Eros & Thanatos (2016) - 81.35 

SYNDONE Mysoginia (2018)
UNREAL CITY Il paese del Tramonto (2015)
LATTE E MIELE Passio Secundum Mattheum - The Complete Work (2014)
LA MASCHERA DI CERA Le porte del domain (2013)
LA MASCHERA DI CERA The Gates of Tomorrow (2013)
PROGENESI Ulisse L'Alfiere Nero (2012)
SYNDONE La Bella è La Bestia (2012)
ALPHATAURUS AttosecondO (2012)
LA COSCIENZA DI ZENO La Coscienza di Zeno (2011)
EGONON Risveglio (2011)
LA MASCHERA DI CERA Petali di Fuoco (2009)
IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA Discesa agl'Inferi d'un Giovane Amante (2008)
NEW TROLLS Concerto Grosso - The Seven Seasons (2007)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

2020 Releases, Part 3: Other Highly Recommended Albums

 More progressive rock album releases from 2020. These are albums that are well worth your investment of time but not, in my opinion, belonging in the masterpiece discussion.


I'm not sure how this received its "Prog Folk" categorization! Are DEEP PURPLE or BLACK SABBATH Prog Folk?

Line-up / Musicians: 
Diego Veiga: vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonic
Hugo Santeiro: electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, classic guitar
Fernando Vilaboi: hammond, synth
Pedro Alberte: bass
Luis Casanova: drums
A Irmandade Ártabra:
Belém Tajes: vocals, aturuxos
Pedro Villarino: bass drum, tarrañolas, tin whistle
Miguel Vázquez: tambourines
Antonio Prado: can, tambourine and effects
Pablo Reboiras: hurdy-gurdy
Susana Pérez: clarinet
Brais Maceiras: accordion

1. "Eira" (08:58) after an awesome atmospheric mystical folk intro of 1:50, the song kicks into a that reminds me of the eclectic British band DIAGONAL or psychedelic rockers HYPNOS69. The heavily treated vocals continue to try to infuse a spacey-psychedelia into the mix, thought music is quite a bit of heavy blues-rock. At 5:45 some new instruments come to the fore (electric guitars, Hammond organ, alien synths) while the main 4-chord motif continues beneath. A entropic passage of cacophony with about a minute threatens to derail everything, but then the band comes back together for a smooth finish. (17/20)

2. "Da Interzona a Annexia" (08:51) opening in full heavy psychedelia, there is a lot more DEEP PURPLE in this music than Prog Folk! The vocal enters after the 90 second opening using some of the same heavily-effected sounds--though with multiple voices and chorus. In the sixth and seventh minutes a traditional folk melody is sung like a chant by the group over the same monotonous music. Guitars and synth try to spice it up after that till the end. (16.75/20)

3. "O curioso caso de Mademoiselle X" (13:42) opens with all traditional acoustic instruments playing some Galician melodies (the Galician band A Irmandade Ártabra). Moura joins in with a slow blues-rock three-chord motif (picking up the main melody established by A Irmandade Ártabra) at 2:27, adding searing lead guitar during the fourth minute, but the singing (using the usual heavily-treated voice of Diego Veiga) doesn't begin until 4:00. At this point, it sounds a bit like a ROBIN TROWER song. When the chorus kicks in it sounds like we're listening to some heavy psychedelic band from the late 1960s--CSN&Y or VANILLA FUDGE come to mind. It's very good! 
     At the end of the eighth minute the guitars and drums disappear to make way for a simple bass riff to support a parade of dreamlike cacophony (spacey synths, organ, harmonica, repeat and echoed keys and guitars) which is finally melded back into a simple semblance of sanity by the quite drums and twin guitars slowly playing their lead melodies. Very cool! (Especially the "School"-like harmonica.) Then a BLACK SABBATH-like "Iron Man" riff takes over at the beginning of the thirteenth minute, taking us out till the end's swirling Hammond chord. (27/30)

4. "Ronda das Mafarricas" (07:03) mystical organ, finger bells, and heavily-treated voice singing a Moorish melody open the first 90 seconds of this before other hand percussives and heavy, deep guitars and bass join in. Accordion is added to the mix. It sounds like a merger between IRON BUTTERFLY and Ash Ra Tempel or Amon Düül. A guitar starts soloing in the fourth minute and then THIN LIZZY-like twin guitars appear around 4:30. Synth solo, guitar solo during background lull in the sixth minute as hand percussives and celebratory folk voices take over--until SEVEN IMPALE/MOTORPSYCHO-like guitars and band come back into the mix till the finish. Thanks to the participation of traditional Galician folk band, A Irmandade Ártabra, this is the most diversified and developed song on the album and, therefore, the most interesting and my favorite. (13.5/15) 

Total Time 38:34

The heavy blues-rock psychedelia presented on 80% of this album is fairly simple in terms of compositional constructs and musicianship. I get pretty bored with four- or five-chord riffs being endlessly repeated over the course of eight or nine minutes--unless there is something extraordinary going on over the top--which there is none of here. Despite the drawbacks, this is definitely an album that grows on you with repeated listens.

87.35 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars stars; a solid revisitation to the heavy blues-rock psychedelia of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

SCARLET HOLLOW A Window to October

Lush electric guitars and synth performances and arrangements from Gregg Olson with solid rhythm section and interesting female vocals help elevate this music to my list of recommended listens.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Allison VonBuelow / vocals, acoustic guitars
- Gregg Olson / electric guitars, synth
- Jeff Mack / basses, bass pedals
- Jay Setar / drums, percussion
- Teresa Russell / guitars, guitar solo (5)
- Massood Jamille / tablas (2)
- Stephen George Geyer / guitars, end guitar solo (9)

1. "Adventures in the Kings Garden" (6:23) vocals a little too like HEART/Grace Slick. (8/10)

2. "From Sea to Infinity" (5:11) tablas used to great effect. Nice keys and vocals. (8.75/10)

3. "A Window to October" (7:05) gorgeous composition with fine performances all around. (13.25/15)

4. "The Forgotten" (4:23) solid prog soundscape but nothing too exciting or special. (8.5/10)

5. "Skipping on Frozen Fire" (6:24) interesting song palette for a deeply personal lyric: kind of dreamy. I like it! Nice guitar soloing in the final two minutes! Great vocal! One of my top three. (8.75/10)

6. "Jupiter's Calling" (4:04) more nice, lush, atmospheric prog music on display for this laid back and very enjoyable instrumental. My second top three song. (9/10)

7. "LVX" (4:55) continues the deeply engaging sounds of the previous. Allison's voice is really working within this one. Nice space-ambient outro. (8.75/10)

8. "Pendragon's Cove" (2:03) solo acoustic guitar with some floating background touches from Gregg's electric. Then he starts soloing. Nice. (4.75/5)

9. "Crimson Lights and Dark Waters" (9:12) 'tron! Acoustic guitars. Sensitive electric lead. Bass and gentle drums. ANNIE HASLEM-like vocal kind of doesn't work--until the gorgeous Annie Wilson-like chorus. Nice work, Allison! Bravo! Sensitive interlude in the fourth minute precedes a change of pace and style for the next section. Love the chunky bass and Mark Knopfler-like guitar! For some reason, I feel as if the vocal should be ... more. This could have been much more powerful. (17.5/20)

10. "I Am Divided" (7:57) feels like a more amped up re-take on the previous song--more as if HEART had done it. The tempo shift at the midpoint saves this one from dustbin doldrums. (13/15)

11. "Possibilities" (4:12) another ballad with layers of mixed/awkwardly paired sounds. Gorgeous albeit brief guitar solo. (I think it's the tone that wows me most.) (8.25/10)

12. "Dream Currents" (7:10) I like this one for its stylistic and tempo variances from the rest of the album. Again, Allison's voice is treated and mixed differently than the rest of the sound--making it feel oddly separate. (Too much compression or something?) Love the b vox choral vocals at the end! My other top three song. (13.25/15)

Total Time 68:59

There were several times that the soundscapes and guitar soloing reminded me of Frank Marino's Mahagony Rush from the 70s and 80s. 

87.32 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a consistent collection of beautiful, lush, mature prog compositions and a welcome addition to Prog World. Reminds me a lot of Dam Kat and her band, Children in Paradise.  

JOHN HOLDEN Rise and Fall

I was really not ready to listen to any new music this year until I was given notice from Bandcamp that John Holden had released a new album. Some of you may remember John's 2018 debut, Capture Light, the one that stirred none other than Maestro Steve Hackett to endorse and proclaim it's success, and an album that earned a B+/4.5 star rating from me. Well, John is back and much of the same amazing guest list from Capture Light is back contributing to eight brand new, amazingly sophisticated, mature, and polished religiously- or classically-tinged songs. Back are brilliant guitarist Oliver Day, singers "That" Joe Payne (THE ENID, METHEXIS, ZIO), Peter Jones (TIGER MOTH TALES, CORVUS STONE), Sally Minnear (daughter of GENTLE GIANT keyboard wizard, Kerry, who has performed with DAVE BAINBRIDGE), and Jean Pageau (MYSTERY), as well as Nick D'Virgilio (TEARS FOR FEARS, GIRAFFE, THUD, SPOCK'S BEARD, MIKE KENNEALY, COSMOGRAF, DAVE KERZNER, BIG BIG TRAIN, THE FRINGE), Oliver Wakeman (yes, THAT Wakeman; YES, STRAWBS) and Vikram Shankar (GRIOT, GRAVITY, LUX TERMINUS, THREADS OF FATE, SILENT SKIES, OUR DESTINY), and single song contributions of Billy Sherwood, Jon Camp (RENAISSANCE), Michel St.-Pere (MYSTERY), and Zald Crowe.

I don't know how John has attracted such a stellar cast of collaborators, but I'm so glad he has: his compositions, so steeped in religious and theatric traditions, are rendered here, as on Capture Light, beautifully, with absolute top quality skill and the highest quality of engineering and production. I usually don't begin writing reviews this early in the year, but this album was an auto-buy for me and has been on regular rotation since it came out--and I still can't get enough of it. 

Five star songs: 6. "After the Storm" (6:08) (Sally Minnear singing) (9/10); 4. "Dark Arts" (7:06) (Joe Payne singing with the bombast of Boy George; Billy Sherwood's awesomely chunky bass; Oliver Wakeman's delicious synthesizer play; Zald Crowe's awesome lead guitar work/solo) (13.5/15), and; 1. "Leap of Faith" (10:11) (Peter Jones singing) (17.75/20).

Four star songs: 2. "Rise and Fall" (6:22) (Jean Pageau singing) (8.75/10), 5. "Heretic" (9:18) (Joe Payne singing) (17.25/20); 7. "Ancestors and Satellites" (8:56) (17/20), and; 3. "The Golden Thread" (4:53) (Joe Payne & Lauren Nolan singing) (8.25/10).

87.14 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent album of theatric progressive rock music.

P.S. One of the most stunning sculptures and/or album covers I've ever seen!

SANGUINE HUM A Trace of Memory

Once more the boys from Oxford release an album of excellent musicianship, engaging sound, and wonderful production covering  a bunch of banal songs that fail to grab or keep a hold.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Joff Winks / guitar, vocals, piano (3), string arrangements (2)
- Matt Baber / keyboards, synths, drums (4), field recordings
- Brad Waissman / bass, Chapman Stick, upright electric bass
- Paul Mallyon / drums (2,5-7)
- Andrew Booker / electronic percussion (1), drums (3)

1. "New Light" (3:04) An instrumental to open the album containing one of the most interesting and completely engaging sound palettes I've ever heard from this band. (8.75/10)

2. "The Yellow Ship" (13:08) opens with a RADIOHEAD sound and feel until the vocals enter, then it's all STEVEN WILSON. It then slogs delicately along for the entirety of its mostly-instrumental thirteen minutes despite several failed attempts to break the chains (at 6:15, 7:55, and 10:35). (21/25)

3. "Pyramids" (4:50) opens with a very strong similarity to STEVEN WILSON's latest more-poppy song styles; though it's still quite definitely prog, it's got that RADIOHEAD simple-feeling complexity. Interesting and different. I like it. (8.75/10)

4. "Thin Air" (4:45) an instrumental with an odd mixture of faded in and out synthesizer sequences over which low notes of a guitar are plucked before bass, electric piano and programmed-sounding drums (Matt Baber) play. Nice build and bridges take us to the three-minute mark where a reverse-noted electric guitar solo is let loose before switching into jazz chords. Nice acoustic guitar and electric piano arpeggiated chord sequence leads us into the Post Rock (Monobody)-like finish. (9/10)

5. "Unstable Ground" (4:10) ominous chords and arpeggi woven together within a syncopated, odd time signature over which Joff sings. The music again reminds me of Chicago avant jazz/Math Rock band MONOBODY. Great section in the third minute. Return to the ominous mood for the final minute. Good stuff. (8.75/10)

6. "Still as the Sea" (3:22) piano and guitar arpeggi interwoven with piano-right hand and Joff's vocal melody-making. At 1:20 we transition into a powerful LYLE MAYS-like jazz piano motif--by far my favorite motif on the album! This is what I've been wanting from SANGUINE HUM ever since they threw away the Antique Seeking Nuns! (9.5/10)

7. "Automaton" (8:49) an instrumental to end the album. A little more interesting and unusual than the rest but still nothing to get too excited about much less quite home about. (17/20)

Total Time 42:08

87.11 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. The song "Still as the Sea" is, for me, worth the whole price of the album. 


More laid back, atmospheric Neo Prog from these now-veteran Brit proggers--their fourth album since their self-titled 2009 debut.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Cureton / guitars, vocals
- Rosanna Lefevre / vocals
- Adam Gough / keyboards, vocals
- Luke Shingler / soprano saxophone, flute
- Jez King / violin
- Christian Nokes / bass
- Tim Wilson / drums, percussion

1. "Aura" (7:52) very laid back and slow to develop--like a classic PINK FLOYD or UNITOPIA song. It even had a David Gilmour-like guitar solo in near the end. (13.25/15)

2. "Waterfall" (11:24) spacious drums, piano, bass, synth washes, and female choir vocals open this slow-paced song. It's like ENIGMA-treated PURE REASON REVOLUTION. At 2:45 everything falls away while piano continues as sole accompanist to Rosanna Lefevre's lovely vocal. (She sounds a lot like FREQUENCY DRIFT's wonderful 2011 vocalist, Antje Auer.) At 3:30 the full band jumps back in, giving Rosanna a little break, but then she returns to sing her next verse. Rosanna's vocalise in the seventh and eighth minutes is pure delight as she slips in and out of operatic mode. Though flute and violin are purportedly in the mix throughout, I cannot really pick them up in the mix (until the very end). A very nice, solid prog epic. (17.75/20)

3. "Breathe" (8:36) more pretty soundscapes with gentle, etheric vocals (and samples of radio interview) but, once again, the song's development is so slow and incremental that the tendency is for the listener (me) to get bored long before the somewhat-interesting subtleties and idosyncracies arrive. (17/20)

4. "Resonance I (3:05) (/10)
5. "Circles" (6:15) straight out of Giancarlo Erra's NOSOUND playbook, this spacious, atmospheric song starts with spacey atmosphere and almost-spoken male vocals before the band kicks in and Rosanna begins wafting her lilting vocalise around in the mix. An eerie Gothic pregnant spaciousness takes over in the middle before the band kicks back in and Rosanna's vocalise continues winding around while male and female vocalists sing some kind of subdued, chanted lyric together. Effective. (8.75/10)

6. "Shadows" (6:18) piano If the band's video has anything to say about this song, it's about a now-homeless war veteran (Baltic wars of the 1990s? or the Middle East conflicts?) and the memories that haunt him: friends lost in battle, lost daughter (or children as collateral damage), lost homeland. Dave Cureton gives quite an impassioned vocal in the second half. (9/10)

7. "Resonance II (2:23) (/5)
8. "The Rain" (18:02) another song that is only separated from the UNITOPIA catalogue by the talented vocals of Rosanna Lefevre (who is used here as the second/relief vocalist)--and by the distinction that not even Unitopian songs develop this slowly, this simplistically. Don't get me wrong: there are definitely some nice sylistic choices here--and more dynamic shifts than on any of the previous songs--it's just . . . nice background music. The various spoken people samples in the thirteenth and fourteenth minutes try to give it a hopeful perspective but, in the end, it just feels pessimistic. (30/35)

Total Time 63:56

87.04  on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent contribution of atmospheric neo-progressive rock. 

KARFAGEN Birds of Passage

I"m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but this album makes Antony sound tired--as if he's running out of fresh ideas, scraping the bottom of his vast and formerly-full barrel--as well as if he's tired of being Mr. Perfectionist in the engineering room and tired of being Mr. Perfectionist with every performance on every track. There are a lot of nice ideas here, a lot of nice performances, but they sound hodge-podged together, spliced together instead of worked out and re-worked out. Mostly a flimsy prog-by-numbers rehash of old ideas.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Antony Kalugin / keyboards, vocals, percussion, composer & arranger, programming & mixing, co-producer
- Tim Sobolev / vocals
- Olha Rostovska / vocals
- Mathieu Spaeter / guitar
- Aleksandr Pavlov / nylon guitar
- Maria Baranovska / violin
- Alexandr Pastuchov / bassoon
- Elena Kushniy / flute
- Konstantin Ionenko / bass
- Viktor Syrotin / drums, percussion

1. "Birds of Passage" (Part 1): (22:40) Antony is starting to sound tired. (38/45)
- a) Your Grace
- b) Against the Southern Sky
- c) Sounds That Flow
- d) Chanticleer
- e) Tears from the Eyelids Start (Part 1)
2. "Birds of Passage" (Part 2): (21:11) (35.33/40)
- a) Eternity's Sun Rise - nice little acoustic guitar rant (4.75/5)
- b) Echoing Green - an exercise in experimental chord progressions? Nice second half--especially when the contributions of other musicians & vocalists join in. (17.33/20)
- c) Showers from the Clouds of Summer - nice feeling set up by piano and treated incidentals. Easily the best, most emotionally evocative section on the album--even the PAUL SPEER-like electric guitar solo. (9.5/10)
- d) Tears from the Eyelids Start (Part 2) - ambient outro. (4.25/5)
- bonus tracks:
3. "Spring (Birds Delight)" (4:34) a wonderful African-influenced song. (9.25/10)
4. "Sunrise" (5:23) New Age-like flute-led instrumental. Pleasant but nothing exceptional or ground-breaking. (8.67/10)

Total Time: 53:56

86.90 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog addict's music collection.

MANNA / MIRAGE 3 "Faces"

1. "There Was No Flower, and The Autumn Leaves Fell" (8:50) (/20)
2. "Monkey in His Head" (5:54) some very smooth, catchy melodies and chord shifts. Nice bass  and lead guitar play. (9/10)
3. "Atomic Buddha" (5:27) (/10)
4. "The Island of Dr. Noreau" (3:03) (/10)
5. "Tunnels and Domes" (5:44) (9/10)
6. "Road to Palace Oblivion" (4:38) an exercise in percussive discipline. (8.25/10)
7. "Fly Away" (4:43) (/10)

Special Mention:

THAT JOE PAYNE By Name. By Nature.

The ever-theatric Joe Payne, known to some of you as the stunning voice and theatrical lead of four of  THE ENID's 20teen's albums, Shining, Invicta, First Light, and The Bridge and their impressive follow up tours, Nikitas Kissonas' 2015 masterpiece, METHEXIS's Suiciety, two JOHN HOLDEN albums, Rise and Fall and Capture Light,  2020's excellent ZIO debut, Flower Torania, as well as numerous solo singles releases.

1. "The Thing About Me" (2:53) showing off Joe's amazing soprano vocal range. (9.25/10)

2. "By Name. By Nature." (5:35) part ANDREW LLOYD WEBER, QUEEN, GEORGE MICHAEL, and ART OF NOISE--all camp and bombast (at his own expense!). Not really proggy, but fun. (8.25/10)

3. "Nice Boy" (3:37) more campy techno pop in the PET SHOP BOYS/ART OF NOISE vein. (8/10)

4. "In My Head" (3:19) piano and lots of incidentals floating around (including full choir and strings) while Joe sings in a deeply emotional ADELE kind of way. Gorgeous song! Incredible vocal. Should be a Top o' The Pops hit. (10/10)

5. "What Is The World Coming To?" (5:48) opens sounding like a modern BOY GEORGE song (tame). Harpsichord becomes the main foundational instrument in the second parts of each verse, the chosrus has a very QUEEN-like quality with its 'wall of voices' background vocals. (8.5/10)

6. "Love (Not the Same)" (6:36) opens like a torch burning soul screamer--not unlike a CHRISTINA AGUILERA song or her version of "It's a Man's World." There's a lot of GEORGE MICHAEL coming out of that bluesy, strings-supported chorus. Great vocal coming in the second half from Ms. Amy Birks. Great song! Could be (should be) a pop hit. (10/10)

7. "I Need a Change" (8:22) set up as a kind of progified gospel song. (16.25/20)

8. "End of the Tunnel" (6:33) a very powerful ELTON JOHN-like song and performance. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

Though the vocals only deserve superlatives, some of the musics and musical styles represented here are a bit off the mark (of popularity). For a theatrical stage performer, this would be an amazing c.v.


A truly intriguing offering of eclectically synthesizing music from a young band from Marseilles that is flawed by performance and sound issues.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Louise Baudu / synth, piano, lead vocals
- Loïc Gerard / guitar, lead vocals
- Basile Bouteau / synth, organ
- Léo Burié / bass, backing vocals
- Pierre Desormeaux / drums

1. "Falling Structures" (11:05) some AWESOME parts and ideas flawed by engineering issues and lack of practice(?) (17.25/20)

2. "Lizard" (9:58) a bit sprawling--and, again, a bit flawed by production issues (Louise's vocals) but not as badly as the previous song. I really like the shoegazey vocal banks in the eighth minute and the Phillip Glass-like percussive minimalism that follows. Again, some absolutely awesome ideas here that could've been polished and recorded better. (18/20)

3. "Why" (11:02) here I hear the PORTISHEAD influences. The roaring psychedelia in the instrumental part is effective. And then it goes stark silent save for a hard-picking electric guitar, but then segues back into dreamy psychedelia. Then classical piano chord hits with creepy whole-group chanting before shifting into almost Zeuhlish section. Crescendo of cacophony dissipates into PINK FLOYD-ish space-opera music over which buzz-saw electric guitar begins to solo. Very melodic. Interesting and unusual song. (17.75/20)

Total Time 32:05

88.33 on the Fishscales, rated down for brevity = B+/four stars; an excellent addition of eclectic and unpredictable psychedelia to any prog lover's music collection. A band to watch--especially if they decide to really polish the performances of their very refreshing and interesting compositions--and if they want to give the sound engineering the time necessary to perfect their mixes.

MR. ROBOT Fables for Robots

A reverently created album by one-man band Aleksei Rusakin from Omsk, Russia--one that he had been working on for some time before releasing it as "finished."

Line-up / Musicians:
- Aleksei Ruzakin / all instruments

1. Fables for Robots, Part 1 (19:18) a section-by-section rundown or lyrics sheet (with translation) would have been nice. the fact that Aleksei chooses to use the same chordal and melodic structures to dominate throughout this entire composition only tells me that he's probably had training in classical music (composition). The occasional introduction of the odd synthesizer or acoustic instrument, to me, shows his desire to impress--to show off his "skills," diversity, and classical training. The fact that they, each one, appear and then disappear without ever returning shows me his immaturity and lack of multiple perspectives as both a composer and storyteller.     Ambitious but unpolished and . . . trite. I hear a lot of Johannes Luley in this work, but none of the Johannes' complexity and maturity that Johannes has attained. (33.25/40)

2. "Fables for Robots, Part 2" (20:24) suddenly the production value is increased: greater complexity, greater layering, greater shifts in tempos, styles, and melodies. Even the overall engineering has tightened up the performances--heck, even the solos are more dynamic, way more emotionally engaging than any in "Part 1." 
     In his brief self-description on his Bandcamp page, Aleksei reports that "The main goal of the project is to compose music that integrates music of various styles and eras as much as possible." He has definitely done this on this second piece as I can finally hear sounds and styles that are familiar to me including those of Tony Banks, Brian May, The Flower Kings, Peter Hammill, and Trevor Horn/Art of Noise. Nicely done--quite a step up from the previous song. (36/40)

Total Time 39:42

Well engineered, the timing between layered tracks is frequently oddly off-kilter. The music is definitely Crossover in that there is little exploration of complex structures or odd time signatures--plus, it's very melodic. The story is light-hearted, presenting a naïve innocence that, I believe, is a tongue-in-cheek representation of the opposite of what the composer really believes. The artist is definitely a pianist first, though his competent vocals show a remarkable sense of self-confidence. Assuming Aleksei did the album's artwork as well, I encourage this would-be Renaissance man to press on--to keep working at his skills--both physical and mental. I like his heart and ambition--this is a cool concept; he only needs . . . practice . . . and experience. (And maybe collaboration and/or outside input.) P.S. Aleksei is not a born drummer.

86.56 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially to have when he releases his next project--in order to see how much he has grown. 

An artist to watch!


Half the lineup Norwegian Prog Folk ensemble, Jørdjso, going a bit more to the folk side of prog folk--and instrumental. It's good stuff!

Line-up / Musicians:
- R.E. Turitrøen / Flute, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Hammond Organ, Arp Pro Soloist, Clavinet, Mellotron and Piano
- C.E. Berg / Drums, Percussion, Mellotron and Guitar
1. "Telg og Sti" (5:25) like some of the laid-back music of 1990s band LANDBERK. Nice. (8.5/10)

2. "Stova" (3:24) more gentle relazing music similar to that of LANDBERK or PAATOS--even a little DUNGEN. (8.75/10)

3. "Spor" (4:32) if Landberk merged with Crosby, Still, Nash & Young. (9/10)

4. "Lauvdal I" (2:27) modern-day ERIK SATIE. Nice but a little too repetitious. (4.25/5)

5. "Varder" (4:41) a jazzier side on display here--jazzier than RAGNARÖK. THE AMAZING could go this direction. Very nice. Great drumming. (9/10)

6. "Jordreis" (4:18) more cinematic acoustic jazz. Almost METHENY-HADEN-esque before the flutes and then electric instruments and drums are added. Great little REINE FISKE impersonation. A well developed jazz-fusion beauty. (9/10)

7. "Laudval II" (3:15) bass, high-pitched percussives, and heavily-distorted electric guitar open this one before gelling with and organ into a LANDBERK-like song. (8.25/10)

8. "Vår Skog" (4:04) dull and plodding while allowing the display of synth, electric guitar, and organ. (8.25/10)

9. "Sunket" (1:48) situational cinematic interludepiece. (4.25/5)

10. "Elds Fall" (6:10) now this one sounds like Ragarök! but then it goes full-on FOCUS! (8.75/10)

11. "Vandring (3:25) two (or three) acoustic guitars picking away before multiple flute tracks add their repeating arpeggi. Later the odd presence of a FRIPP-like electric guitar makes itself known. Shades of THE ROCHES Keep on Doing. (8.5/10)

Total Time: 43:29

Overall, the music on this album bears a striking resemblance to the musics of LANDBERK though with a slightly more acoustic orientation than that of the Swedish quartet. 

86.50 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent album of catchy little instrumental Prog Folk ditties for you to check out for yourselves. 

RICK WAKEMAN & The English Rock Ensemble The Red Planet

One of Rick's better solo releases (some say his best!) in which I still find all of the usual weaknesses. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Rick Wakeman / Keyboards
- Dave Colquhoun / Guitars
- Lee Pomeroy / Bass
- Ash Soan / Drums

1. "Aseraeus Mons" (5:52) marching organ chord progression and stereotypic prog tom-tom drum fills open what turns out to be a fairly nice weave of keyboard layers and melodic hooks. A little too syrupy and prog-pandering for me. The best part is the bank of female choir "oohs" at the end. (8.25/10)

2. "Tharsis Tholus" (6:16) opens with a Camel/Babylon familiarity. P
rog lite with some nice codas and bridges, shoddy guitar work, and Rick wailing away on a few of his favorite keyboards. It just sounds tired. (8.5/10)

3. "Arsia Mons" (6:10) starts out as Rick pulling from some of the Tony Banks/Genesis bag of tricks before going sappy David Gilmour acoustic guitar in the second minute. The panning Vangelis synth is cool, as is the chunky bass, and it's pretty, but there's nothing very new or innovative here. Still, this is the first song with any kind twists and turns, which I've been waiting for. (8.75/10)

4. "Olympus Mons" (5:20) Rick's now in full gear, prog rockin' at its fullest--as the drummer and bass player are in full sympathy. The first two minutes kind of noodle around before a shift at 1:55 takes us into a couple new and more lively motifs--the second of which takes us pretty much to the end as Rick loses himself with his Minimoog soloing. (8.75/10)

5. "The North Plain" (6:53) opens with eerie synth and treated piano sounds slowly trailing across the spacey soundscape. At 1:26 drums and a Keith Emerson "Tarkus"/Edgar Winter "Frankenstein" kind of motif establishes itself. Solid play from his bandmates while Rick plays around with a pitch bender and then another synth (Arp?) before everything collapses into a kind of chaotic blackhole. It really sounds as if all of the instruments are being sucked down a toilet! When we finally emerge "on the other side" it is to a thicker, heavier version of the formerly organ-dominated "Tarkus-Franskenstein" motif--this one more in the wheelhouse of Blue Öyster Cult. Nice! (9/10)

6. "Pavonis Mons" (7:13) a bit of a Punk Rock guitar beat opens this one (think The Clash or The Police) before Rick's soloing synths take on the first and then second lead melodies. A plodding 4/4 surprises me--except for the "choruses." The song basically continues on this path with Rick trading keyboard for keyboard every 20 seconds or so for the duration of the song. Too bad! (12.5/15)

7. "South Pole" (7:35) another GENESIS-like opening sound palette leads into a little more VANGELIS territory--which is nice and relaxing but, eventually, a little too simple and New Age-y--despite the fine chunky bass play from Lee Pomeroy. Move to solo piano at the end of the third minute, and we are treated to some of Rick's classically-trained melody-making magic. At 4:20, Lee and the others begin rejoining as Rick switches to more Blade Runner sounds and melodies. A very pretty, nicely arranged prog lite song, it could also almost fit nicely into a CAMEL story. (13.25/15)

8. "Valles Marineris" (10:02) the best drumming on the album doesn't save this rather dull and straightforward song. (17.5/20)

Total Time 55:21

Quality symphonic prog compositions performed very competently just lacking any bite or exposition of anything new or innovative; a rehashing of the old sounds, styles, and motifs. The predominant use of 4/4 straight-time signatures is a bit surprising to me--making it feel more like Prog-Lite.

86.50 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection and one that I would recommend checking out for yourselves.


Cristiano Roversi and David Cremoni are both known from the Italian Neo Prog band MOONGARDEN. This is their fourth album released since 2001 under the Submarine Silence moniker.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Guillermo Gonzales / vocals
- David Cremoni / electric & acoustic guitars
- Cristiano Roversi / keyboards
- Manuela Milanese / vocals
- Alberto Zanetti / bass
- Valerio Michetti / drums, percussion
- Davide Marani / vocals

1. "Undone" (10:43) beautiful GENESIS-like music with unusual vocals from Guillermo Gonzales (made better by the harmony vocals of Manuela Milanese). The music, unfortunately, stays too long in the pleasant but boring 2nd gear of songs like "Mad Man Moon" and "Ripples" without delivering much excitement until the guitar solo in the eighth minute (unless you count the rafters-vibrating pulsing single notes of bass pedals). Guillermo's voice finally clicks with me in the final minute when Manuela goes first and he comes in with deep panache. (17.5/20)

2. "Echoes of Silence" (3:12) super lush GENESIS and-when-there-were-four soundscapes à la TONY PATTERSON's Equations of Meaning make for a beautiful listen but then Guillermo's delay-echoed and self-backed voice tracks keep coming in off time, confusing and confounding my ears. (8.25/10)
3. "Runaway Strain" (9:14) humming along like something from GENESIS's Invisible Touch, this one rides on solid drumming and nimble-fingered Hammond organ play while Guillermo sings in his NAD SYLVAN voice. At 3:00 we slow down for a beautiful 12-string passage, embellished by "oboe" and multiple male voices singing. At 4:25 we then move into a "The Cage"-like passage complete with Tony's solo synth sound. Another switch back to the song's second motif before moving back into a high-speed chase with Hammond and Moog soli while Guillermo continues singing at 6:00. At 7:25 we're back to the "oboe," 'tron and guitar picking (though not 12-string this time). I like the thick bass play here beneath multiple "woodwinds." And that's how it closes. (17.25/20)   

4. "A Deeper Kind of Cumber" (6:26) opening with a plethora of deep, ominous sounds woven together in a DAAL-kind of way. The Mellotron and simple hitches meant to signify odd time signatures tries to garner interest and respect, but is then abandoned at the two-minute mark for a "Land of Confusion"-like sound and pace for Guillermo to begin singing over. Nice downshift at 3:25. The attempts to bring in a more sinister KING CRIMSON sound run a-muck when those impassioned vocals and Steve Hackett-like guitars join in. Interesting. (8.5/10)

5. "Aftereffect" (6:25) Is this a different vocalist? (Davide Marani, perhaps)? I like it better. Guillermo sounds great as the background vocalist. And the simpler music, even with the bombast in the fourth minute, is a much better match for this kind of song/singing. (8.75/10)

6. "Echos of Silence, Pt. 2: The Answer" (9:35) A bombastic opening slows down to the lush GENESIS 12-string & Mellotron soundscape over which Manuela Milanese takes the lead vocal--using a relaxed, almost hypnotic approach with her beautiful sonorous voice similar to a cross between Anne Pigalle and Christina Booth. At the end of the third minute a much more vibrant, dynamic theme takes over--over which Guillermo Gonzales jumps like a GLASS HAMMER theatric performance. The "shadow" section begins at 5:00: gently picked classical guitar over which first Manuela, and then Guillermo, sing. A pleasant but predictable instrumental section then follows occupying most of the seventh and eighth minutes. In my opinion it is this approach--with two singers, male and female--that works best for this music. (17.5/20)

Total Time 45:35

While I am, of course, enamored of the Genesis soundscapes, I am not a convert to the decision of using Guillermo Gonzales to sing the lyrics. I think I was expecting the pleasant voice of There's Something Very Strange in Her Little Room's Ricky Tonco (which, for me, was the highlight of that particular album. I have not yet listened to 2017's Journey Through Mine.)

86.39 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very nice contribution to the Neo Prog lexicon and one that I recommend all prog lovers hear to judge for themselves. 

BENJAMIN'S KITE Ingenious Cacophonies

A Canadian band that is trying to be heard for its eclectic styles has suffered from questionable engineering and production standards now steps up a notch from previous efforts. Though the music is pleasant and often melodic and engaging, there are still flaws regarding the skill and quality of the engineering and compositional. I decided to check this album out more seriously despite the fact that I had dismissed it after listening to song snippets earlier in the year because reviewer "Zoltan" posted a five-star review on October 8 that piqued my interest. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bryan Vamos / keyboards, voices (5), producer
- Robbie Brennan / guitars & vocals (1-5)
- Zoltan Vamos / drums (2,4,5,6), voices (5)
- Marc Mongrain / bass, engineering
- Robert Leader / drums (1,3,5)
- Peter Szewc / drums (5)
- Robin Habermehl / saxophones, flutes

1. "Widow Maker" (6:09) a pretty standard poppy hard rock song with interesting sound quality and an unremarkable vocal, melody, and chord structure. (7.5/10)

2. "High Water Mark" (6:14) a more engaging and interesting sound palette than the opener, there's a little GENESIS/PHIL COLLINS but more solo DON HENLEY sound and feel to this one. The attempt to pull off a complicated Wind and Wuthering-like GENESIS instrumental passage in the fifth and sixth minutes is commendable but ultimately redundant. (8/10)

3. "One Good Soldier" (5:15) another fairly average attempt at capturing a RUSH/YES-like prog song ends up feeling as if one were revisiting IQ, PALLAS, or PENDRAGON's first demos/albums from the early 1980s. (8.25/10)

4. "Spoken True" (5:21) a more complex-feeling song that really sounds like a BRYAN ADAMS hit ballad. Nice whole-band cohesion and an excellent piano performance. The Bryan Adams treatment of Robbie's voice works nicely. (8.75/10)

5. "Sector 85" (26:32) overall very strong--by far the best work on the album. (44.75/50): 
- i. Transfiguration - opens like a scene out of the Blade Runner soundtrack--one of the one's beneath Deckard's narration. Nice 2:40 instrumental intro. (4.25/5) 
- ii. Emergence - moves into early PENDRAGON territory with vocals and GENESIS-imitation--then full-on A Trick of the Tail teaser of "Los Endos" theme. Nice, cohesive sound and performances here. I really like the CAMEL-like flute-led section that comes next. (9.25/10) 
- iii. The Party - from 9:10 to 13:45 comes a high-speed with aggressive flute and synth soloing. Kind of sounds like something from And then There Were Three... the fast part of "The Lady Lies" perhaps. The lyric part feels consistent with the intro--one of Robbie's better vocals. (Too bad about the pizza order.) (9/10)
- iv. Cascade - at 13:45 there is a complete takeover of "cascading" keyboards--over which the singer fills in a PENDRAGON-worthy performance. Very good band cohesiveness. Nice keyboard work. (8.75/10)
- v. Towards Orion - at 19:04 begins a more laid back, hypnotic guitar arpeggio led section that turns to solo piano by the end of the first minute. Very pretty theme here--with nice synth support/interplay. (5/5) 
- vi. Ascendance - at 21:39 begins the final section, with brief intro that turns to pulsing GENESIS "Eleventh Earl of Mar" or even Duke territory. A nice finish to a great suite (though it is, in fact, the weakest part of the epic). (8.5/10)

6. "Barnard's Loop" (9:28) a simple, bucolic, very pretty and melodic instrumental that features slow 12-string guitar arpeggi, flutes and saxes as the lead instruments. Nice. (17.75/20)

Total Time 58:59

Interesting how bassist-engineer Marc Monrain manages to keep his pleasant bass play up front and center. Would that they had done a better job recording and mixing the drums and vocals. I believe that the band's intentions are pure and sincere--and that they are working hard to improve on all fronts--but, I have to say it, they still have a ways to go to get anywhere "essential:  a masterpiece of progressive rock music" status. I'd love to hear more sci-fi inspired epics like "Sector 85."

86.36 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a fine effort that is definitely worth any prog lover's own review and assessment. The epic, "Sector 85" is definitely worth checking out.


Competent guitar-based prog rock from Texas. Interestingly, the band chooses the long-playing song format to express its musical ideas more than not. Also, the band chooses to use some quite simple effects and techniques when recording their tracks.

Line-up / Musicians: 
Patric Farrell: Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Drums Programming, Vocals
Kenny Bissett: Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
David Peña: Guitars, Synths, Atmospheres

1. "Brave New World" (11:51) nice Blade Runner-like atmospherics to open the album. A U2 guitar and PETER GABRIEL-like drum palette join in during the second minute and continue to construct and fill in the song's form (with the help of guitars and excellent bass) and flow until the fifth minute when we see a shift into a more spacious and circumspect accompaniment to Kenny Bissett's lead vocal. Kenny's voice reminds me very much--both in style and effect--of that of the lead vocalist for Dutch band FOURTEEN TWENTYSIX's Lighttown Closure (a very CURE-like album and sound). HIs voice is a bit of an acquired taste--which, after three listens or so, become accepted as part of the baseline fabric of the B4tF sound. (21.5/25)

2. "Breathe" (5:34) a little Tears for Fears and The Cure feel to this one. Nice drums (all programmed?). (8.5/10)

3. "The Sheltering Sky" (7:55) A song that tries hard on many levels with layers of effects and atmospherics but, for some reason, just never completely gels. It's decent, and interesting, just not Earth-shattering or ground-breaking. The vocals (both lead and harmonized background) I think are one of its weaknesses. (13/15)

4. "Zenith" (7:15) sounds like it could come straight off of a Kevin Moore CHROMA KEY album.(13/15)

5. "City of the Sun" (9:54) great PETER GABRIEL/FOURTEEN TWENTYSIX-like opening continues being quite engaging when Kenny's vocals enter. Probably my favorite song on the album. Its main weakness is in the relative monotony of its flow and development. (17.5/20)

6. "Azimuth" (4:08) a quite straightforward song structure which is made somewhat more interesting by unusual sound choices from the various guitars. Sounds like a VON HERTZEN BROTHERS theme. (8.25/10)

7. "Distant Land" (15:18) slide guitar in constant whale-motion in the background is the distinctive feature in the opening section of this other CHROMA KEY-like song. Awesome instrumental passage beginning at the end of the fourth minute in which David's guitar turns to lead and the band takes off in a nice fast pace. The atmospheric slowdown for the eighth, ninth, and tenth minutes is nice in a PINK FLOYD/LUNATIC SOUL kind of way. Nice YES-like section with smooth group choral-style vocals in the twelfth minute is, unfortunately, spoiled by Kenny's lead in the thirteenth. The final two-and-a-half minutes feel like industrial sci-fi soundtrack music within which multi-voiced vocals are implanted. My second favorite song on the album. (26.25/30)

8. "Line of Sight" (12:32) opens with a sound and feel that reminds me of the energy and in-your-face music of Swedish band BROTHER APE's 2010 masterpiece, A Rare Moment of Insight. 
 Over the course of its twelve-and-a-half minutes my assessment changes little (though B4tF's vocals are nowhere in the same league as Brother Ape)--though again I am quite often reminded of Dutchman Chris Van der Linden's FOURTEEN TWENTYSIX project. Nice PETER GABRIEL-like drum programming throughout--and YES-like vocals in the final two minutes. Nice ending to the album. My third top three song. (21.5/25)

There is an unmistakable 80s-ishness to the music here--especially the stylings and treatments of the vocals. I also found myself often reminded of Kevin MOORE's CHROMA KEY project of 1998-2004. Nice music but not quite top tier. There is something not quite right in the recording, engineering, and/or mixing of the vocals. Perhaps they need to have a professional engineer in a professional studio with an outside-the-band producer involved in their recording projects in order to provide some objective inputs.

86.33 on the Fishscales = B/four stars.


Second album in two years from these prog veterans from SPOCK'S BEARD.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ted Leonard / lead vocals, guitars
- John Boegehold / keyboards
- Dave Meros / bass
- Jimmy Keegan / drums, vocals

1. "Raining Hard in Heaven" (8:31) a rough start with some very "mainstream" poppy musical themes used to try to hook us into an upbeat feel. There are, however, some nice ideas developed in the second half. (17.5/20)

2. "Here in My Autumn" (7:57) I'm already tired of the "repeat three times" approach to hook lines and choruses used by these guys. Again, the sounds and styles here are all slight variations on that which is already familiar. Nice sound and instrumental performances of a mature composition. (13/15)

3. "Elegant Vampires" (4:30) nice Mediterranean and Celtic flavor to the opening and secondary motifs to this song. I like that they are continued into the singing part. Ted Leonard has a very pleasant voice that I'm getting used to. A pleasant, nonoffensive song. (8.75/10)

4. "Why Don't We Run?" (5:09) even more southern Mediterranean sounds/flavors to this one--until the chorus comes, it sounds like it could come straight off of a MYRATH album! Not very interesting or likable chorus (unless you're still stuck in a Trevor Horn/Frankie Goes to Hollywood 1980s). I especially don't like the near-disco beat that follows and plays out over the rest of the song. (8.25/10)

5. "Lifeboat" (17:20) after a two minute introduction of bombast, the story begins to be told over a sparsely landscaped foundation. Moving into the "everybody into the lifeboats" chorus the band kicks back in with the aplomb of ASIA or PHIL COLLINS. A switch near the five-minute mark comes with a change in perspective from the story teller/singer--complete with its own very Tony BANKSian musical motifs and chorus. (I think he's the stowaway.) At 8:40 we again shift into a new section--this time with a very real "Relax" bass and drum line and rolling piano arpeggio.
     I'm beginning to discover a weakness in Ted's voice in that he's not quite chameleonic enough to pull off the many personality perspectives he's trying to use. Had I not heard so much prog in my life--had I not heard thousands of prog epics over the course of my 50 years as a prog lover--this might come off as a pretty cool, exciting song. Maybe that's the problem with today's prog artists: They have to please us old-timers. Perhaps it'd be better if we either just died off or moved on to derive our pleasure through some other musical form. (30.25/35)

6. "Soon But Not Today" (12:03) an interesting if sedate intro breaks into a DANNY ELFMAN song with the caveat of having the balls to use a near-reggae motif to support it through the second section. Nice instrumental performances through the first instrumental section. At the six-minute mark we slow down and enter BIG BIG TRAIN territory with a spacious folk pastoral soundscape. A minute later we're moving into a more layered, BEATLES-esque theatricity with horns and long, pretty vocal notes and background vocals and GEORGE HARRISON-like lead guitar soli. The BEATLESness seems only amplified by the use of the Greek chorus and celebratory background shouts and screams of the next part of this section (as well as the continued Sgt. Pepper's-like use of horns). As an homage, pretty cool. As an original piece of music, a bit cloying. (21.75/25)

Total Time 55:30

Like the band from which three of these musicians came, I find the music here a "lite" version of prog--one in which most of the sounds, ideas, themes, styles, and even riffs have been iterated and reiterated to death (in the Neo Prog world) so that they now feel old even when you hear them for the first time. Like the Beard, even the lyrics and their subject matter seem hokey or as if they've been created to fit a list of topics that are popular with the masses.  

86.09 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very pleasant collection of eminently listenable and professionally composed and performed melody-based progressive rock songs. 

PAT METHENY From This Place

Of course Pat is going to choose from (and have his pick of) the very best jazz musicians in America if not the world, so musicianship is never going to be an issue on any Pat Metheny release. My question is whether his creative well can continue to produce fresh sounding compositions. This presentiment is prompted by three of his more "recent" releases that I am familiar with: The Way Up from 2005, Orchestrion from 2010, and What's It All About from 2011. While this latter is, obviously, exclusively made up of covers of jazzy pop songs from "our" formative years (1965-1972), the former two are the two releases Pat has done in the 21st Century that stray closest to proggy jazz fusion. The Way Up was a mélange and integration or kind of "best of" all of Pat & Lyle's most proggy stuff since 1981's As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls.  His other releases from this century have all been more straightforward jazz--or, at least, jazz lite--not prog.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Pat Metheny / guitars, keyboards
- Gwilym Simcock / piano
- Linda May Han Oh / bass, voice
- Antonio Sanchez / drums
- Meshell Ndegeocello / vocals
- Gregoire Maret / harmonica
- Luis Conte / percussion
- Hollywood Studio Symphony orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

1. "America Undefined" (13:22) From its opening minutes this song cries out, "jazz," but then, in the middle, there are some nods to the proggy jazz fusion that he and Lyle Mays made so popular in the 1980s and 1990s. (I love the Radiohead chord progression used by the piano in the quieter mid-section, minutes nine through eleven--and then the crescendo and dénouement at 11:30.) First half jazz; incredible proggy finish. (28/30)

2. "Wide and Far" (8:27) piano, double bass, jazz drumming, and one of Pat's signature electric jazz guitar sounds (modified from that of one of his heroes, Wes Montgomery). 1970s-like background orchestration give this a kind of timeless pop-jazz feel. Still, the style of the guitar play is quite reminiscent of Mr. Montgomery--even the melody choices harkening back to the 1960s. A perfect composition with flawless performances but, is it prog? Is it even jazz fusion? Methinks it's almost straightforward jazz--or at least Pat Metheny jazz. And there's nothing here that's even remotely experimental or innovative. (17/20)

3. "You Are" (6:13) a very simple and sparsely populated Math Rock kind of construct that slowly builds (especially from drummer Antonio Sanchez and Joel McNeely's orchestration). Again, there are very strong hints of Radiohead influence here. Another perfect composition with flawless performances that definitely satisfies the proghead in me. (9.25/10) 

4. "Same River" (6:43) Pat playing his sitar-like sounding guitar effect, light jazz support but highly present and influential are the orchestral inputs--they are not background support but main contributors. Nice simple piano solo in the third minute ending just as Pat switches to his signature "synth horn" axe sound for a somewhat routine and disappointing (uninspired?) solo in the fourth minute. Burt Bacharach-like time signature shift with significant orchestral inputs follow before the music returns to more subdued, delicate realms in the sixth minute. This plays out gently, delicately, so beautifully to the end. So 1970s-ish! (8.75/10)

5. "Pathmaker" (8:20) one of Pat's signature intricately threaded multi-time signature songs. To me, this is just straight jazz, nothing even remotely resembling prog or jazz fusion--and it's very standard (though extremely proficient) Pat Metheny fare. (15.5/20)

6. "The Past in Us" (6:24) somber, introspective piano and strings open this one. Pat on nylon string guitar enters after 90 seconds and brushed drums, punctuating double bass, and harmonica join in, with the harmonica taking the lead for the third minute. Pat joins in counterpointing Gregoire Maret's Toots Thielemans-like harmonica play. (We've heard this before on Pat's 1992 Grammy Award-winning masterpiece, A Secret Story--with Toots Thielemans performing the mouth harp duties! Pat is obviously feeling quite nostalgiac.) (8/10)

7. "Everything Explained" (6:52) fulfilling another Pat Metheny album prerequisite: latin-flavored Pat song. Using his Wes Montgomery sound and style. His playing is still great but not as crisp or inspired as his prime. The support team is very solid. All jazz here, no prog. (12/15)

8. "From This Place" (4:40) set up for vocalist Michelle Ndegeocello to perform her whispy angelic magic (in multiple tracks!), the song is clearly based on variations on the meldoies and themes of one of our American anthems: "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Interesting but nothing worthy of radio play or repeat listenings. (8/10)

9. "Sixty-Six (9:39) How many different permutations and combinations are there on the old Pat Metheny masterpieces? (Isn't that what jazz is all about: continually playing "new" variations on the past masters?) Most interesting for the drumming and luscious arrangements of the beautiful chord progressions, not for the guitar "leads." As a matter of fact, I'd go so far as to say that for the first time as a Pat Metheny fan, I'm bored by the guitar soloing and far more distracted by the fascinating compositional arrangements and performances of everyone else. (17.75/20)

10. "Love May Take a While (bonus track) (5:57) Another step back into the patterns and orientation of the Secret Story album as the finale there were also gorgeously rich orchestrations within which Pat played his solo guitar. Still gorgeous but nothing new here (other than a different decade and a different orchestra). (8.5/10)

Total Time 76:37

Having been a Pat Metheny fan for over 45 years, having collected almost everything he's contributed to, and having seen him in concert several times in the 1980s and 1990s, I feel that I know Pat's styles, and patterns very well. There is nothing new or superlatively innovative hear. It is a fairly typical Pat Metheny album with exceptional sound and performances on compositions of a grand master. An album of Pat's usual elegant music that does happen to contain one and a half proggy, somewhat experimental songs. half the time, with the lush orchestrations, I felt as if I were listening while comparing it to my favorite jazz fusion album of the 1970s, Freddie Hubbard's Love Connection (also lushly orchestrated).

85.64 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a Pat Metheny Jazz album that displays the master's perfection of his compositional craft as well as his unmistakable ability to surround himself with virtuosi, but, in the end, is just another Pat Metheny jazz album that has been constructed in typical Pat Metheny fashion.

GIORGI MIKADZE Georgian Microjamz

Line-up / Musicians:
Giorgi Mikadze – Microtonal Keyboards
David Fiuczynski – Fretless Guitars
Panagiotis Andreou – Fretless Bass
Sean Wright – Drums
Basiani Ensemble – Vocals (4, 12, 13)
Nana Valishvili – Vocals (6)

01. Metivuri (3:43)
02. Dumba Damba (9:34)
03. Shedzakhili (1:03)
04. Elesa (8:46)
05. Mirangula (1:10)
06. Moaning (7:08)
07. Racha (1:20)
08. Maglonia (7:25)
09. Gelato (0:35)
10. Kartlos Blues (5:52)
11. Gurian Lullaby (2:45)
12. Lazhghvash (4:22)
13. Tseruli (2:43)

Total Time – 56:00

B+/four stars.


Chicago's finest returns with their twentieth and most accessible (but still laughable) album.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Thymme Jones / vocals, guitar, drums, trumpet, b-vox, synths, piano (7), autoharp (8), moog (8), glockenspiel (8)
- Carmen Armillas / vocals
- Dante Kester / bass, keyboards 
- Amelie Morgan / oboes (1), b-vox (4), electric piano (6), bass (6)
- Jeff Libersher / guitar, bass, synthesizer, keyboards, ersatz cello (7)
- Greg Beemster / vocals (4)
- Todd Rittmann / ersatz mellotron (4)
- Sophia Uddin / viola (5)
- Mark Hagedorn / trombone (5)
- Maxx Katz / flutes (8)

1. "Intijmacy" (2:10) (4.25/5)
2. "Like Something to Resemble" (4:39) (8.75/10)
3. "Diatoms" (2:57) (9.5/10)
4. "Life Rings Hollow" (5:38) (8.75/10)
5. I Don't Believe (7:37)
6. Plea Bargain (4:09)
7. Things (5:50)
8. Slowly for Awhile (4:22)

Total time 38:22

B+/four stars.


The Norwegian NuJazz leaders are back with another album displaying the progression of their sound. The same rhythm patterns as used in 2015's excellent Starfire are this time enhanced by new,  fresh sounds from both electronica as well as electronically treated voices and instruments.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lars Horntveth / guitars, pedal steel guitar, clarinets, saxophones, keyboards, synthesizers, vibraphone, piano, programming
- Marcus Forsgren / electric guitar, vocals
- Even Ormestad / bass
- Line Horntveth / tuba, alto horn, euphonium, flute, vocals
- Erik Johannessen / trombone, vocals
- Martin Horntveth / drums, percussion, programming
- Øystein Moen / synthesizers, clavinet, Hammond organ
- Andreas Mjøs / vibraphone, chef
- David Wallumrød / Pro Soloist (1)

1. "Tomita" (13:46) breathy, plaintive saxophone, electric piano, background synthesizer--this sounds like something from either Harold Budd's first collaboration with Brian Eno, Pavillion of Dreams, or one of WEATHER REPORT's classic 1970s albums. Eno/Ryuichi Sakamoto-like programmed percussion and synth horns enter in the fourth minute, eventually receding behind the emerging drum kit, electric bass, and electric guitar play of a lounge jazz combo. Soft, breathy horns and delicate electric guitar play continue into the seventh minute as a jazzy melody is built and embellished. Then, early in the eighth minute, all rhythm instruments cease while horns and guitars continue--kind of recreating the introductory soundscape--until 8:25 when the rhythmists return and the song reconnects with the melodic weave from earlier. All this is interrupted with a quite radical detour in the tenth minute to what sounds like a bridge but then becomes more like the drummer and bass player have gotten stuck in short time loop. Eventually they break the loop and emerge onto a landscape of colorful and joyous sunlight as multiple synths, guitars, and voices celebrate the alien sunset arrival, the end of the world, and the peaceful transition of all life forms to their simplified energetic sources. Nice. Very engaging main weave. (26.5/30) 

2. "Spiral Era" (8:08) the rhythms are the same, purely Jaga Jazzist, but the melodies and spacey textures are different, catchy. (13.25/15)

3. "The Shrine" (9:06) opening with some gently, spaciously woven horns, drums and breathy bass instruments join in (I'm reminded of Markus Pajakkala's 2017 release, Brutiopianisti), gradually moving into a moderately-paced whole-band fabric. At the end of the fourth minute "large" horn section begins adding it's EARTH WIND AND FIRE-like wall of melodies and accents. Despite a few brief dream-like interludes between horn-dominated sections, this is the bulk of the song. Never thought I'd dis a JJ song, but this one does nothing for me. (15.5/20)

4. "Apex" (8:08) marginally outside the realm of disco, there is a very retro-1980s DEPECHE MODE/1970s DONNA SUMMER sound palette to this one. Too bad it lacks any interesting or even moderate development. (A key change in the third minute! The dropping out of all non-rhythm track instruments around the five-minute and seven-minute marks! A synthesizer solo in the bass end during the sixth minute! Some increased filler in the treble clef during the seventh minute!). (13/15) 

Total Time 39:08

The music corresponding to the titles seem mismatched to me. I hear very little Tomita in the opening song. I hear very little Nigerian melody or rhythms in the supposed tribute to Fela Kuti, "The Shrine," and I get very little of a "symphony" feel from the overall feel and flow of the album.

85.3125  on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection, though, in my opinion, not up to the standards of previous JJ releases. 


They're back! 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ross Jennings / vocals
- Charlie Griffiths / guitars
- Richard Henshall / guitars
- Diego Tejeida / keyboards
- Conner Green / bass
- Raymond Hearne / drums

1*. Prosthetic (5:58) full-on djent-metal! I actualy love the distortion effect on Ross's voice--and the opening vocal section. After that it turns into an aggressive KARNIVOOL song. Not bad. (8.5/10)

2. "Invasion" (6:42) cool start before it descends into usual acrid metal. (These plastic-sounding drums are so annoying.) The vocal reminds me of KARNIVOOL's Ian Kenny. In fact, the whole song reminds me of KARNIVOOL. (8.75/10)

3. "Carousel" (10:29) what?! Britain's Got Talent?! Tears for Fears? 0:30:  Oh, good. This is Haken. (Though I still hear so much of KARNIVOOL. And maybe a little of the older LEPROUS.) The chorus at 5:00 is outright lame. The sparse slowdown section in the eighth minute is spoiled by that childish Hallowe'en bass line. Too bad cuz there's some other good stuff going on here (voice, keys, guitar, drums). (17/20) 

4. "The Strain" (5:23) a horrible vocal (partly due to the effect chosen) opens this one before it turns nice-LEPROUS. Ross's voice sounds worn and old here, the chorus like KARNIVOOL's "Whipping Boy." The spacious, slowdown section in this song is better, more atmospheric--and the high octave vocal very nice. (8.75/10)

5. "Canary Yellow" (4:14) the gentler, more sedate side of KARNIVOOL. Wish it was better--more compelling. (8.5/10)

6. "Messiah Complex I: Ivory Tower" (3:57) psych guitar?! Weird! Not a bad song--until 2:15. That guitar riff is horrid--ruins it! (8.25/10)

7. "Messiah Complex II: A Glutton for Punishment" (3:38) continues the drumming here is so off-putting! Then they try to put LEPROUS and QUEEN vocals over the top! No! (7.75/10) 

8. "Messiah Complex III: Marigold" (2:24) the music takes a complete turn here, into soft Neo Prog with some respectable drum play beneath the choral voices. But they couldn't let it go--had to burst into the militaristic heavy metal music. I'm not sure I can take these plastic drums any more. I'm going to have to go listen to some nice 1970s psychedelia just to get over the trauma! (4/5)

9. "Messiah Complex IV: The Sect" (2:02) something cool about all the stop-and-go epithets being spouted out here. (4.5/5)

10. "Messiah Complex V: Ectobius Rex (4:57) great start to the finale turns to DEVY TOWNSEND. They do a fairly good job of it, too! Doesn't save the epic suite, but gives me a shred of lingering hope. (9/10) 

11. "Only Stars" (2:10) are they trying to elevate Ross into the realms of Einar Solberg or That Joe Payne? (4.5/5)

Total Time 51:54

* - "Prosthetic" song is a bridge between the two albums, "Vector" and "Virus"

This year's model shows a continued addiction to loud, violent forms of human expression. And it's so like several other contemporary djenty metal bands. I guess I've been waiting for their album of chamber music. 

85.24 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an album that you might like--especially if you're into the TOOL-DEVIN TOWNSEND school of heavy metal prog.

ANTONY KALUGIN Marshmallow Moondust 

Some completely solo ideas presented by the prolific prog maestro from Ukraine offers some pleasant, upbeat fluff to distract people from the heaviness of the COVID-era.

1. "Marshmallow” (20:20) mostly prog lite: pleasant instrumental background music with a few nice passages and themes—especially in the 15th and 16th minutes—before the PAT METHENY GROUP Latin-and vocalised section. It’s a little too cheesy and gratuitously upbeat for my tastes, but pleasant enough. And there is definitely nothing new, exciting, or innovative going on here. (33/40)

2. “Moondust” (20:20) I was 90 seconds into this one before I realized it wasn’t the ending of the previous song! The opening is very familiar—similar to both Incantations-era MIKE OLDFIELD and the light-rock side of PAT METHENY(Secret Story). The “Sesame Street” themes used in the foundation of the third and fourth minutes are a bit distracting—but it is a nice, melodic, soft passage. At 4:40 there is a subtle shift to a new motif that could be an under-development GENESIS demo. Nice sound palette and melodic hooks—especially from the Tony Banksian keys—it’s just that you know GENESIS would do much better with the guitars and drums. In the eleventh minute there is another slight shift in which male vocals whisper sing “marshmallow moon” in the background before Mellotron-like female choir voices do some DANNY ELFMAN/Harry Potter-like eerie vocal insertions. At 12:20 things are toned down for clunky bass and jazzy drums to take the Potter-theme into a jazz-lite direction—but this only lasts a bit before bare synth wash, acoustic guitar, “oboe & flutes” and fretless bass take it down into a pastoral New Age passage. Great guitar lead around the 16-minute mark before “harpsichord” and “vibes” and organ take it into a slow GRYPHON/PROCUL HARUM/FOCUS-like theme and passage—which takes us to an amped up end of multiple recapitulations of other themes woven into a cacophony of sound. (34.5/40)

I’m not even sure whether to count the condensed “medley” version of the two epics that are included with my Bandcamp “Digital Album” purchase. The version of "Marshmallow" (3. “Marshmallow Medley” [7:20]) is definitely more rollicking and captures the essence of the 20-minute version with the dynamics of an Emerson Lake and Palmer song cross-bred with a 1980s PAT METHENY GROUP song. (13.25/15)

4. “Moondust Melody” (7:20) opens as if it were the previous song, but then turns a different corner with its sound palette—though ends up still sounding like a KEITH EMERSON keyboard display over a WEATHER REPORT/GENESIS base. The slowdown section—here instituted at the end of the third minute—feels like an unnatural transition, but once you’re there it still works in a New Agey jazz-fusion kind of way. Gone are the Sesame Street references but the Procul Harum/Focus motifs become “stately wedding” slow march music. The Danny Elfman/XII Alfonso-like convergence of themes that occurs in the finale is, then, amped up but shortened and a little less satisfying. It sure goes by much faster than the beautiful long version! (12.75/15)

I like the long version of “Moondust” much better than “Marshmallow” but it still suffers from a lightness that feels And then I like the condensed version of "Marshmallow" better than that of "Moondust." Go figure!

85.0 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a nice prog lite addition to any prog lover’s music collection.  it's getting a lot of praise so, check it out for yourselves. There's a lot of ear candy here--and it's certainly better than Birds of Paradise--but some of it feels overly familiar, so let's let it percolate a bit before deciding on its final place in Prog World.

NIGHTWISH Human. :II: Nature.

Eighty-one minutes of intricately composed and performed music that, unfortunately, I feel I've all heard before. I mean, to my ears, there is never any doubt in my mind, no matter where I "drop the needle," that I'm listening to Nightwish. I love that they think that they're trying to push the boundaries on what they've already done but, in the end, it's still just variations on exactly that: stuff they've already done. 
     This release generated a lot of excitement in the prog and metal communities. To me, it sounds like Nightwish being . . . Nightwish! Tight, even virtuosic performances of strong compositions, it's just that I don't hear anything new or innovative. Even the all-orchestrated second disc is not anything that the band hasn't done before. Maybe it's more polished and concise this time (at 31 minutes) but it was fresher the first time. 
     Floor is amazing. Tuomas is amazing. Emppu is amazing. Troy Donockley is amazing. Marco and Kai are amazing. But these people are always amazing--doing exactly the same thing that their doing here. I think it's time they pull a "Remain in Light" and all do a musical chairs instrument-switch. Then let's see what comes out of Nightwish!
     Excellent and amazing but I'm tired and old . . . I need something fresh and unusual to pique my interest. 
     But of course, I can't help but recommend it to you--for you to make your own judgments. It probably deserves four stars, so . . .

Line-up / Musicians:
- Floor Jansen / vocals
- Tuomas Holopainen / keyboards
- Emppu Vuorinen / guitars
- Marco Hietala / bass & vocals
- Troy Donockley / uilleann pipes, low whistles, vocals
- Kai Hahto / drums 

CD 1 (50:37)
1. Music (7:23)
2. Noise (5:40)
3. Shoemaker (5:19)
4. "Harvest" (5:14) (8.75/10)
5. "Pan" (5:18) (8.5/10)
6. How's the Heart? (5:02)
7. "Procession" (5:32) (8.25/10)
8. Tribal (3:57)
9. "Endlessness" (7:12) a reprise of the music from "Shoemaker" with Marco singing lead instead of  Floor. (13.75/15)

CD 2 (31:03)
1. All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World
I. Vista (4:00)
II. The Blue (3:36)
III. The Green (4:42)
IV. Moors (4:44)
V. Aurorae (2:08)
VI. Quiet as the Snow (4:05)
VII. Anthropocene (incl. "Hurrian Hymn to Nikkal") (3:06)
VIII. Ad Astra (4:42)

Total Time 81:40

Same old Nightwish: stellar performances of complex compositions but sounding/feeling very much the same as all previous releases.

B/four stars.

LUNAR CLOCK The Scream of Nature

A quartet from The Netherlands uses music to express their interpretations of the works of Edvard Munch--exploring one of the sure-fire domains of the potential of progressive rock:  the interpretation of other art forms through music. A little too saccharine and simple for my tastes. Could be the BEACH BOYS 2020 because of the vocals, melodies, and experimental song structures and forms expressed here.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Robin Boer / keyboards, lead vocals
- Shardan Stream / guitars, samples, vocals
- Karsten van Straten / drums, percussion
- Thefar Side / basses

1. "Frieze" (2:50) synth waves/wind with percussion and voices. Reminds me of the opening of MOON SAFARI's highly acclaimed 2008 album, Blomljud or something by New Jersey's ADVENT. (4.25/5)

2. "Skrik" (3:05) more shoreline water sounds with electric keyboards and electronic percussion open this one for 50 seconds before the band bursts forth with a two chord foundation over which Robin Boer displays his prowess on a Moog-like synth. Still more introductory and cinematic, not a fully formed song. (8/10)

3. "Sadness Under the Belt of Venus" (3:33) an interesting sound palette for the opening 90 seconds before everything turns left into a solo piano base for Robin to sing over. Nice solo instrument palette though most everything (other than guitars and drums) are keyboard generated. (8.5/10)

4. "A Winter Storm on Spring Blossoms" (4:05) BRIAN AUGER meets JOE SAMPLE with a MOODY BLUES-like rock palette in the (sparse) vocal sections until the second half when everything goes full-on rock. (8/10)

5. "Equal Adoration" (4:28) nice liturgical-like vocals and melodies over piano. Flutes only enhance the angelic feel. Once again, however, this song feels incomplete. Still, a top three song for me. (9/10)

6. "Bridge of Anxiety" (2:39) military drums and background bouncy organ are soon joined by electric guitar power chords and guitar-like synth chords. Nice Moog soloing over the top. (4.5/5)

7. "Despair (2:51) brooding piano joined by Robin's Thom Yorke/Steven Wilson vocal. Another top three song. (4.5/5)

8. "Metabolism I: The Tree of Life (2:41) opens with cheap 1990's keyboard synth strings over which electric guitar delicately cries. (4.5/5)

9. "Metabolism II: Mother Nature's Sanctuary" (6:03) (8.25/10)

10. "Metabolism III: Spring (6:42) nice PINK FLOYD-like synth foundation over which guitarist "Shardan Stream" finally gets to shine. Nice tune. (8.75/10)

Total Time 38:57

85.3125 on the Fishscales = B/four stars. Worth checking out!


A synth-oriented band from Russia that really intrigued me with their previous release. Let's see if they've lived up to the tremendous potential they showed before.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Elena Kanevskaya / lead vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, samplers, theremin
- Tatyana Kanevskaya / guitars, backing vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, samplers
- Dmitry Shtatnov / bass, keyboards, synthesizers, lead vocal (9), backing vocals, samplers, sitar, custom DSP algorithms
- Sergey Rogulya / drums, percussion
- Zhenya Kanevskiy / vocals (8)
- Kostya Shtatnov / vocals (8)
- Andy Didorenko / Violin (4)

1. "Invested with Mystery (Prologue)" (1:51) accented, heavily reverbed a cappella sung by Elena is eventually joined by subtly emerging synths and incidentals. (4.25/5)
2. "Eternal Wanderer" (4:39) a nice late-70s Renaissance like pop-prog song. Elena's voice sounds like a poor Paula Cole. (8.5/10)
3. "Transformations" (6:55) (/15)
4. "Meteor" (5:46) (8.75/10)
5. The Cradle of a Hurricane (8:13) (/15)
6. I Wanna Give My Life for You (6:40) (/10)
7. Chaos of Reason (6:21) (/10)
8. In Search of the Anti-world (7:32) (/15)
9. Homeless Soul (5:11) (/10)
10. Invested with Mystery (6:04) (/10)

Total Time 59:12

Far more "song"-oriented than their previous release, the band is successful in their growth but still have a ways to go until they've found the compositional, instrumental, and engineering prowess to reach the top tiers of Prog World. 

B/four stars.

GRUMBLEWOOD Stories of Strangers

This collaboration of some mature folk rockers will entice lovers of the old stuff of bands like Horslips, Jethro Tull and even Uriah Heep. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Gav Bromfield / lead vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, piano
- Salvatore Richichi / guitars, mandolin, banjo, harpsichord, backing vocals
- Morgan Jones / bass, harpsichord, backing vocals
- Phil Aldridge / drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Naomi Middleton / additional vocals
- Kirsty Campbell / additional vocals

1. "My Fair Lady" (7:30) good folk rock sound with fairly simple structure and performances (especially from bass and flute) and passable vocals. The second, almost-parenthetical section, beginning at 4:50, is great--very HORSLIPS-like. The sea-shanty section in the seventh minute, too. (13/15)

2. "Picturesque Postcard" (4:42) though mandolin and acoustic guitar and pacing giving this a kind of CARAVAN and MAGIC BUS feel, the song drifts cleanly onto the tracks of JTULL paths during the heavier (electrified) chorus sections. Nothing new or too exciting here. (8.25/10)

3. "Castaways" (5:17) again, I am distracted by hearing so much of other bands in the Grumblewood sound: MAGIC BUS, CARAVAN, JETHRO TULL, HORSLIPS, and even THE ANIMALS in this one. Lead singer Gav Bromfield tries to be powerful and emotional, but it just doesn't feel authentic. (8.25/10)

4. "Fives & Nines" (4:35) The compositions and instrumentation are competent but lack flair and flourish (except, perhaps, the drummer's cymbal work). Even the flute is too tight and conservative. (8.5/10)

5. "The Sheriff Rides" (6:02) feels/sounds like a fairly sedate and conservative rehashing of an old folk song--though the frail lead vocal in the verse sections is, to my mind, the most effective of the album. I like bass being front and center but I'm not feeling the connection of his lines to the subject matter. The drums are dull and the guitar work is totally supplemental. The chorus sections weaken the song considerable. I love the subtle "cave"-like background vocals lurking in the background like ghosts--very cool. I find myself wondering what this song would sound like without any bass or drums! (8.5/10)

6. "Ex Memoriam" (3:07) More and more I'm hearing the standard blues-rock chord structures of URIAH HEEP in these songs. Sounds like a Jethro Tull rehearsal. (8.25/10)

7. "The Minstrel" (8:00) More URIAH HEEP construction with a great deal of VAN MORRISON flair. This song is by far the most adventurous and polished song on the album. As it ventures into the meat of the song--the chorus and instrumental section--there is far more of a JETHRO TULL force on exhibit. But then it turns all VAN MORRISON. The bass holds down the rhythm and flow, the guitars and drums do Van Morrison-like jazz-scatting around, and the flutes and vocals provide some nice melodic threads into the overall weave. The vocal after this actually reminds me of a cross between ERIC BURDEN and Magic Bus's PAUL EVANS. Easily the best song on the album. (13.5/15)

8. "Stories of Strangers" (5:27) reminds me of a Colin Tench or Guy Manning song--though still retaining the vocal strains and stylings of Eric Burdon. The song drags a little--like a C&W ballad or song by THE BAND. During the mandolin solo in the middle it sounds like everyone wants to launch into a rolicking uptempo jam, but just can't figure out how to do it. The entrance of electric guitar power chords helps to initiate the move--and this pace feels much more appropriate for this palette of instruments. Even when the background vocalist-supported vocal returns, this is a much better pace, though still not perfect. It just feels, with repeated listens, that this song could have used a lot more practice and polishing--so that all of the band members could feel confident enough to add little ideosyncracies of personality. (8.25/10)

Total Time 44:40

Overall, the reverbed and often doubled-up vocals of lead vocalist Gav Bromfield are just not strong or emotive enough to carry this band into the realms of top-tiered Prog Folk sound. 

85.0 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; recommended for you to try for yourself but it is my opinion that if this album "rocks your world" then you haven't heard enough early Jethro Tull, Horslips, Van Morrison, or Uriah Heep.

GHOST TOAST Shape Without Form

 I am impressed most of all by the dedication to the "loose" concept of this album: both T.S. Elliot's poem "The Hollow Men" and the spectrum of choices that lead to man's "human" and "inhuman" behaviours--despite the fact that this is an "instrumental" album. (There are voice samples from a wide array of film and other media dispersed throughout most of the album's songs). The music is good, mostly heavy, driving its themes firmly and insistently, but there is by no means anything new or extraordinary in either the composition or the instrumental prowess on display. 

This is very good, often engaging music from a fairly new band from Hungary. While I do recommend 2020 listeners to check this album out for themselves, I will continue to watch and await the development of their mastery and hope for a real stunner, a masterpiece, sometime in the future--perhaps the near future.

B-/four stars.

TELERGY Black Swallow

A tremendous and ambitious idea for a musical rock opera that falls a bit short. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Robert McClung / guitar, bass, violin, viola, mandolin, piano, organ, keyboards, flute, percussion, tenor vocals
- Bryan Hicks / William Bullard
- Pete Peterson / Eugene Bullard
- Champ Hollins / young Eugene
- Rev. Robert Thompson / eulogy preacher, church goer
- Nadine Thompson / church goer
- Emmanuel De Saint Méen / nightclub MC
- Jordan Hall / attacker 1
- Tim Clarck / attacker 2
- Durga McBroom / Marie-Madeleine Fourcade
- Lorelei McBroom / gospel vocals
- Lara Smiles / gospel vocals
- Emily Lynn / gospel vocals
- Stephanie Slabon / soprano vocals
- Dustin Brayley / tenor, baritone and bass vocals, radio newscaster
- Martyna Halas-Yates / hardcore vocals
- Chris Bonito / drums
- Todd Sucherman / drums
- Tony Levin / upright bass
- Michael Manring / fretless bass
- Steve Di Giorgio / fretless bass
- Tony Dickinson / bass
- Mike LePond / bass
- Pete Trewavas / bass
- Dave Meros / bass
- Caith Threefires / bass
- Charles Cormier / slide guitar
- Vernon Reid / guitar
- Phil Keaggy / guitar
- Gary Wehrkamp / guitar
- Timo Somers / guitar
- Stephan Lill / guitar
- Andy LaRocque / guitar
- Jimi Bell / guitar
- Jeff Rapsis / piano
- Rachel Flowers / piano
- Jeremy Heussi / keyboards, organ
- Vikram Shankar / keyboards
- Basil Bunelik / accordion
- Troy Donockley / uilleann pipes
- Magic Dick / harmonica
- Tina Guo / cello
- Adam Nunes / cello
- Tim Nunes / violin
- David Ragsdale / violin
- Mattan Klein / flute
- John Cardin / trumpet
- Mitchel Bailey / trombone
- Gus Sebring / French horn
- Tracy Crane / French horn
- Chip Brindamour / tuba
- Edie Brindamour / euphonium
- Katrina Veno / clarinet
- Thomas Gimbel / tenor saxophone
- Nils Crusberg / tenor and alto saxophone
- Bryan Campbell / baritone saxophone

1. "Georgia" (12:27) (21.5/25)
2. "Scene 1 (1:32)
3. "Chased Pt. 1 (2:53)
4. "Scene 2 (0:59)
5. "Infantry" (9:24) reminds me of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, DEVIN TOWNSEND, IONA, ASTURIAS (17.5/20)
6. "Scene 3 (0:35)
7. "Take to the Sky" (10:14) this one reminds me of NIGHTWISH, DIXIE DREGS, JEAN-LUC PONTY, and, again TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA (17.75/20)
8. "Scene 4 (0:43)
9. "Marcelle (3:13)
10. "Scene 5 (0:36)
11. "Le Grand Duc (4:12)
12. Scene 6 (0:52)
13. Spy (6:14)
14. Scene 7 (1:01)
15. All Blood Runs Red (7:39)
16. Scene 8 (0:51)
17. Chased Pt. 2 (3:03)
18. Scene 9 (0:48)
19. Honor (3:43)

Total Time 70:59

Interesting, innovative, refreshing but fails to blend and amount to anything more than a novelty.

B-/four stars.

 MOON MEN Tales of Space Pirates

An album that has made me smile, start to finish, since the day I first heard it. Those guys are so silly! (Would that everyone were having as much fun!)

Line-up / Musicians: 
Sgt. Cthulhu Moone (Jerry King) - bass clef device, trombombulator, geetar
Eschaton Crater (Bret Hart) - pluckomatic, stretch-tone, electrospock therapy, & wheeze organ
Major Dom Fook (Dave Newhouse) - plutonian ivory tinklers & fookophones
Billzilla (Bill Jungwirth) - spoons

1. "Life Of The Automaton Accountant" (4:02) (9/10)

2. "Andy Had Gills" (for Andy Gill) (4:16) or, "But, [insert name here]! We're trying our hardest!" (8.5/10) 

3. "Space Hero Theme Song" (2:52) fun in the classroom (8.75/10)

4. "Paper Ball For Kitty" (4:34) silly sounds brought into the Steely Canterfold. (8.75/10)

5. "Sliding On The Moone" (3:51) bringing in a little Southern Blues Rock cheer. Jam on it! (8/10)

6. "Graham Crackers In The Monastery" (4:40) Gong Kosmische groovin' (9/10)

7. "The Chemicals I Ate Did It" (3:17) if Mark Isham could go sinister. (8.5/10)

8. "Unknown On The Telephone" (3:15) (7.75/10) 

9. "Space Opera Blues" (4:57) This one should be called: "Tuning our instruments by the campfire when suddenly we were accosted by a rogue groove to which we were all forced to jam to before we got tired and drunk (and old) and had to slow it down and quit." (7/10)

10. "Journey To The Plains Of Obmurd" (7:55) or, "Four dudes with too much time on their hands recording while watching television in four different rooms until they finally realized that they were wearing their noise-cancelling headphones." (13/15)

Total Time 43:39

My only complaint with the music on this album concerns the rather boring, simple, straight time sigs (expressed in the rather dull, plodding drumming). 

84.05 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a very good display of fun and games from the Year of the Coronavirus by some quite talented, goofy, and creative "musicians." 


Meeting somewhere in between Pink Floyd and Ashra Tempel.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mathias Rosmann / guitars, synth, piano, programming

1. "Raytracing" (9:03) (16/20)
2. "Mandarine" (11:02) (17.25/20)
3. "Floating High" (16:51) (29.5/35)
4. "Tears" (10:50) (16.5/20)
5. "The Dome" (14:00) STEVE HILLAGE! (24/30)
6. "Touching Moon" (12:08) (20.5/25)

Total Time 73:54

Just a little too "plug in and jam" loose and simple.

82.50 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars.


Russian band Aesythesys is back with another collection of their unique form of atmospheric Post Rock--an album that I was very excited to hear due to my love of their 2018 release, Achromata.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Victor Krabovich / guitar, keys
- Nik Koniwzski / violin, keys
- Sasha Coudray / bass
- Artem Taganov / drums

1. Exodus (5:21)
2. Black Swans (5:49)
3. 01101001 (4:52)
4. Transcendants (3:30)
5. Hello World (4:00)
6. Replicant Party (4:06)
7. Obey (3:19)
8. Better Stranger (3:46)
9. Me2 (4:33)
10. Amen D (3:41)

Total time: 42:47

Favorite songs:  the race-against-time MIKE OLDFIELD-meets-TEARS FOR FEARS-like "Amen D"; the 1980s DEPECHE MODE-meets 90125 YES-like "Better Stranger"; the Berlin School/Kraftwerk-like "Hello World"

     Though was really enrapt and intrigued by the novel approach to Post Rock that this band exposed me to on their 2018 album Achromata, I have found this album to be either rushed or showing the signs of burnout. There are a lot of themes here that seem to deal with futuristic, film-inspired themes and ideas, but the ideas here are too often either ill-timed or left undeveloped and incomplete. 

I find Alignments to be a huge disappointment as I felt Achromata showed signs of innovation and energy that one rarely finds in instrumental, keyboard dominated Post Rock. 

C/three to 3.5 star album.

BAND OF RAIN Petrichor

So much talent here! Long-time band leader Chris Gill, a talent in his own right, enlists the creative input of legends Jon Camp (RENAISSANCE) and Robert Webb (ENGLAND) and one of my favorite up-and-coming vocalists, Matthew Corry (EMPEROR NORTON).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jon Camp / bass
- Matthew Corry / vocals
- Rick Hambleton / drums, percussion
- Chris Gill / guitars
- Robert Webb (England) / keyboards

1. "Daughter of the Moor" (7:49) Matthew really stretching it out--showing his immensely talented and broad vocal range--but it's rendered so poorly into the mix. And the song is so one dimensional. Too bad. (12/15)

2. "The Craft" (6:34) opens with a band and never goes anywhere from there. As Matthew sings it's as if he's in another universe with absolutely no connection to the music--at least until the music goes soft in the second half. (8/10)

3. "Larkspur" (7:53) finally, something is moving, something is interesting--and Matthew's operatic vocals and lyrics are working within and with this musical tapestry. Great CHRIS SQUIRE-like bass line and love the work of Robert Webb's keys (especially the little clavinet riffs). (13.5/15)

4. "Merlin" (7:18) 2-chord instrumental over which Jon Camp's fretless ambles about. Later, Chris Gill's guitars tear it up pretty good. (12.75/15)

5. "Tupelo" (5:43) an instrumental attempt at uptempo power/heavy prog. Nice sounds and bass and guitar play but otherwise the song has no meat. (8.25/10)

6. "Witchfinder" (7:33) opens with choir and bird noises before band kicks in with slow three-chord blues-rock dirge. Then at 5:10 it's as if a whole other song has been faded into this one to take over. Chris does an admirable job with his axe trying to salvage this one, but . . .  (12.5/15)

7. "Petrichor" (12:11) potential and melding but no direction or ambition. (20/25)

Total Time 55:01

So much aimless meandering! The chemistry of these mega-talented individuals just never seemed to gel. For some reason the band is content on every single song to establish a groove and then stick with that one monotonous for the length of some exceedingly long songs while letting vocalist Matthew Corry create some magic yet recording his voice terribly into the mix. 

82.86 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; an album of interesting sounds and performances that somehow lacks a sense of unified direction and completion.

BREEZE The Fragile Beauty

This is an album--the fourth from this quartet from Germany--that straddles the bridge between prog metal and symphonic prog fairly well--with sound and style similar to bands like EPICA or NIGHTWISH--only without a successful convergence or outcome.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jörg Piron / vocals
- Ottfried Mietzke / guitars, keyboards, orchestral arrangements
- Gunnar Sletta / keyboards, add itional guitars, vocals
- Hansi Arnold / drums, vocals

1. "Portrait" (8:36) great song with amazing keyboard work and orchestral arrangements, a stunning guitar solo, but weak vocals. (18/20)

2. "Circus in Town" (4:55) a very odd musical mix--almost as if part of it came from the 1990s and was trying to be mixed into the . The vocalist is a little better at staying on key than the one on the opening song, but he's not a great lead singer (lacking experience or polish?) It's as if they're trying to be RUSH with a hint of 80s metal. (8.75/10)

3. "Moth in a Flame" (7:48) a fairly pleasant STYX-like song in which several individual instruments feel as if they are working within their own different universes. Are they aware of each other? The way they use keys, space, and melody would lend credence to the possibility that they aren't--including and especially the vocalist. Weird. (13/15)

4. "The Eternal Spinning (6:52) the MIREK GIL-imitating guitarist is going non-stop from the previous song! Forcing everyone else to conform to his key, pace, and melodic sensibility. I think the keyboardist and drummer are both fighting to play louder than the guitarist--to drown him out! And, once again, it just feels as if the vocalist has no clue as to where or what or how to sing with, much less within, this music. He just sings over anything he wants, often butchering the music below. A wild deviation in pace and style at 3:26 forces me to recognize that part of the problem is probably in the over-heavy use of delay and reverb on the keys and guitar. And the fact that the two "matching" vocalists have no regard or respect for the other's style and timing. They will be no COLLAGE. I keep wondering what the music would be like were the band members all on the same page. And what's with the orchestral arrangement? Was it composed for this song--or just mistakenly mixed into it? (11/15)

5. "The Siren's Song" (6:49) two dueling guitars with straightforward prog metal open this beofre dropping away to allow the piano-based, strings-supported soft vocal. The vocalist's voice actually sounds pretty good so long as he stays in the range of his speaking voice--but as soon as he deviates from that octave, things go wonky. Still, without so many divergent ideas coming from each individual band member the song almost works. Almost. It's just too dull--and marred by the flawed vocal. (12.25/15)

6. "Secret of the Sea" (3:58) don't know where they're trying to go with this hand-panned guitar-arpeggio--to which is added a pseudo-classical tenor vocal performance. In the chorus he decays into a kind of Jamee Young (STYX) tone and style. Guitar, 1990s keyboard winds, and orchestral sthrings each seem to be operating in their own isolated vacuum--which is too bad cuz in isolation they each sound pretty awesome; they just don't work together. It's as if you tried to weave together flourescent orange yarn, warm chocolate syrup, and spaghetti (8.25/10)

7. "Boat to Utopia" (7:55) Again! How can they not listen to these master tapes and see/feel the same clash of incongruities that I do? Am I starting to lose it? (11.5/15)

8. "A Drone's Plight" (4:37) trying to overcome their issues with organ and djenty power chords. At least it's all working in the same universe. Could be an outtake from one of COLLAGE's lost unreleased albums from the 1990s. (8.5/10)

9. "The Eye of the Storm (5:52) multiple keys battling for attention with insidious BLACK SABBATH guitar and voice somewhere in there until the keys mysteriously and suddenly just disappear at the end of the first minute. Weird vocal in the soft section in the third and fourth minutes followed by over-acted narration part. Push repeat and then superimpose an over-the-top two-guitar (or guitar and synth) duel in the final minute and you've got it. (or, can anyone every really get this stuff?) (7.75/10)

10. "Lullaby (5:23) more akin to one of STEVE HACKETT's nightmare songs. Again, the soloing guitar track must have been created/recorded in one decade (the 1980s) while the keys and bass were done in the 1990s, the drums and psychedelic vocals in the 1970s, while the orchestra parts could've been done anytime.
     Who are these guys and why can't they get on the same page? Another collection of very pretty tracks in the vein of 1990s COLLAGE that somehow went awry. (8.25/10)

Total Time 62:45

Despite it's wonderful sound palette and amazing talents of guitarist Orrfried Mietzke, the vocals and at-times too-predictable musical flows diminish an otherwise very enjoyable and often-impressive listening journey. Most of the songs are very odd soundscapes in which it feels as if two or three very different song ideas are being forced together. While this results in unusual and, therefore, "new" sounding musics, the differing instrumental tracks often remain very much at odds with one another throughout the song. What really hurts, and why I chose to write and publish this review--is because there are some truly wonderful sounds and ideas here . .  . they're just all jumbled up and spit out in like someone's post-binging vomit. YOU GUYS HAVE INCREDIBLE POTENTIAL. Please, PULL IT TOGETHER--show us what you can really do.  

82.50 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; an unfortunate case of wonderful ideas never coming to common consensual finish.

ZANOV Chaos Islands

Never a fan of Zanov's stuff, I'm always open to trying anything/everything he's released because of the respect he's garnered from other reviewers/listeners. In the end, this one is no different than the others--highly derivative, simplistic, and bland for its lack of freshness.

1. "Edge of Chaos Island" (7:19) Berlin School takes over Blade Runner (13.25/15)
2. "Inception Island" (6:22) trying to usurp some themes/styles from Inception? Fail! (7.5/10)
3. "Strange Attractor Island" (6:57) slow and plodding; nothing new here. (11/15)
4. "Three Body Island" (6:48) (12.5/15)
5. "Phase Space Island" (8:15) so TD! (Dude:  It's been done!) (17.5/20)
6. "Instability Island" (7:00) some cool parts. (12/15)
7. "Emergence Island" (6:20) so JARRE! (8/10)

81.75 on the Fishscales = C+/three stars; a fair contribution to Prog World, one that I would recommend that you try out for yourselves.


An album that I could let pass were it not for the interesting and somewhat experimental constructs (intentional or accidental?) and melodies of several songs (not the opener!). 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Holger Thorsin / electric guitar, lap steel guitar, piano, keyboards, drum machine, vocals
- Petter Broman / bass, piano, vocals
- Petter Berndalen / drums
- Pontus Dahlstrom / saxophone
- Tomas "Dr. X" Åkvik / lead guitar

1. "Le Voleur" (11:47) a fresh attempt at Zeuhl (really?) that is horrid! (19/25)

2. "Vildsvinsvisan" (4:29) Nice bass play with some other nice elements that never develop or fly. (8.5/10)

3. "The Long Eared Owl" (4:17) an interesting weave that could/should really go somewhere. They try at 1:30 (is this spliced in?) with a shift and then the addition of full drums and soaring lap pedal steel at the 2:00 mark. Nice melodies coming from several directions. Now this is where I hope these guys go in their development! (9/10)

4. "Anti Shadows" (4:29) the opening belies the successful jam that does ensue. The guitarist sounds like he's using the chords and sound of RADIOHEAD's "Optimistic." interesting achromatic soloing from the pedal steel in the middle. (8.5/10)

5. "Vise Versa" (6:13) a little more quirky like PINGVINORKESTERN here. (8/10)

6. "Half Man Half Me" (6:01) sounds like COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE's Post Rock with a Dick Parry-like saxophone soloing overt the top. In the third minute it turns simple JIMMY WEBB-like guitar chords and bass with some synth strings beneath. Almost a slow swing dance! Then it goes into a more electro-pop weave for the final two minutes. Cinematic. (8.5/10) 

7. "The End and the End Again" (3:37) echo guitar picked and slid along the fretboard while the band members position themselves in the background. It's as if the guitarist is searching for something that will draw the other members into a jam. In the second minute it finally starts to happen. Some cool incidentals added by the drummer and keyboard player, but, truly, this is no practiced/written composition and could never be replicated. Good thing the tapes were recording. (8/10) 

Total Time 40:53

An album of songs that feel as if they were taken from a weekend of taping whatever these five "musicians" threw at the mics. (I would know: I've done the same!) Some of it works, some of it fails.

81.76 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; an interesting jam band with potential and creativity.