Here follows an ordered list of my favorite Neo Prog albums of the 2010s. Again, Neo Prog is defined as music intentionally using lush, keyboard-drenched romantic, and more-symphonic aural textures and soundscapes familiar from previously established sounds from the likes of mainstream "classic era"progressive rock bands such as Wind & Wuthering era Genesis, 1970s Pink Floyd, Renaissance, and even Yes, Rush, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson.
1. TONY PATTERSON Equations of Meaning (2016)
2. MYSTERY Delusion Rain (2015)
A late release in 2013, it’s taken me this long to get to listen to this album and now that I know it intimately I write my review and prepare to adjust all of my year-end rankings to make room for this masterpiece of prog ear candy.
1. “Final Breath” (4:04) opens with some ominous incidental noises and sustained notes before an old player piano and synth exchange supporting melody lines. Pulsing synth bass and other instruments slowly gather around until drums declare the song to be in the style of Pink Floyd, not a cinematic soundtrack. (8/10)
2. “Light Years” (7:33) opens with a strumming 12-string not unlike George Harrison’s infamous “My Sweet Lord” before a somewhat cheesy upper register electric guitar melody line joins in—introducing and, later, mirroring the vocal melody line. Drawn out over minutes it becomes a little tedious. The second solo guitar line added at 3:25 is no better. The vocal could very well come from Fish—especially his more rock oriented solo stuff-even his album of the very same year, A Feast of Consequences. Nothing very special here, though the unusual ‘second song’ that begins at the 6:20 mark is a bit more original and a notch more interesting. (10.5/15)
3. “Silhouette” is an epic masterpiece. Thirteen to nineteen song threads woven together into one long story have an atmospheric quality that captivates the listener even through the heavier sections. The opening two sections (“i. Silence Can Be Deafening, Part 1” [6:47] and it’s companion, “ii. Welcome to Your Nightmare” [3:16]) are so hypnotic, so comfortingly, beautifully engaging, as to lay the groundwork for the totality of the 67 minutes.
“iii. Where Were You?” (12:01) has such awesome, pleading and floating vocals over Floydian rhythm tracks with Dave Gilmour/Mirek Gil-like lead guitar play. Could anyone sing “It’s in my head” with any more feeling and vulnerable power than Pete Trewavas? Awesome lead guitar play in “iv. The Loging [7:48].
“v. The Morphlux” [3:12] is interesting for it’s departure from the flow and synth domination of the previous 30-minutes. Oud, acoustic guitar and hand drums lay down the base for the theatrical whispering Genesis-like Gabriel vocal. Once the rock instruments bash their way in the song rollicks along with a relentlessness that is just awesome! All-out vocals and Hackett-like guitar leads carry this song to prog heaven!
The sudden and complete switching of gears at the transition into “vi. I Am Haunted” [2:51] is interesting if a bit off-setting. Then, just as suddenly, we enter into a reprise of the opening themes with “vii. What Do You Want?” [2:04] only this one amped up with two channels of prog-heavenly lead guitars, which, then transitions rather (too) quickly into the atmospheric four-part “viii. The Seventh Sign [7:01], a very Pink Floyd Wall-era sounding song, complete with a Gilmour-rivaling solo.
Suddenly we find ourselves back in the Morphlux theme with the disturbing effect of multiple vocals vying for our attention (“ix. The Second Coming of The Morphlux” [3:08]) before fading/floating us back into the awesomeness of the soundscape of Silence Can Be Deafening (Part 2) [5:13]—though a decidedly more echo-y and atmospheric version. This, however, allows the drum play to stand out much more—and awesome is that drum play as it builds and plays with Pete Trewavas’ excellently layered synthesizer extravaganza and Eric’s beautiful Mirek Gil-like guitar leads.
By the time we flow into the exquisite nine-minute instrumental “Music for The End Credits of an Existence” we are wondering how much longer these guys can maintain this high level of inspiration, creativity, and emotional output. Incredible! The final 100 seconds of “The Clock Strikes November” teases us with a little ditty from The Morphlux themes in order to try to bring some closure to this amazing sonic journey. Perfect! I cannot imagine someone not enjoying this song! Even my wife keeps chiming in to ask who’s singing, who is this playing, what are they singing so beautifully about? I have even found myself pushing replay while working with this song in the background—and been curious enough to follow the lyrics through an entire listening. Is it a ghost story or a story about a lost part of life, an older identity, a past life, a look back into the past at an older version of one’s self or another? It’s no matter. It’s gorgeous, composed, performed and sung with heartfelt emotion and excellent, excellent engineering and mixing. Kudos, Pete, Eric and helpers. Thank you for keeping beautiful progressive rock alive—nay, giving it a great booster shot of fresh life! I am ever so grateful!! A masterpiece of atmospheric, melodic spacey progressive rock.
4. THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE The Dream of the Magic Jongleur (2011)
5. LIFESIGNS Lifesigns (2013)
6. AIRBAG The Greatest Show on Earth (2013)
7. BELIEVE Seven Widows (2017)
9. TIGER MOTH TALES Cocoon (2014)
1. "A? - I" (2:56) Noah's father setting the scene. (4/5)
2. "Salvation" (3:18) simple yet enticing song construct with some pretty awesome vocals from Peter Jones. (9.25/10)
3. "A Price To Pray - I" (2:51) the band finally gets to launch into full sound--a full 90 seconds of instrumental display. It's heavy yet psychedelic. The voice of Noah are strong and metallic. (8.5/10)
4. "A Dream That Strayed - I" (4:35) opens like a JEFF BECK/COLIN TENCH bluesy guitar show piece with piano and delicate drum and synth play in accompaniment. In the second minute vocals enter from male (Lars Köhler playing the role of Samuel, I believe) as piano, syncopated drums, fretless bass and synth chords support. A lecture from Father ensues in which Samuel is told that his "disrespectful" girlfriend must go. Simple yet sensitive, pretty, and powerful. Excellent vehicle for storytelling. (10/10)
5. "A Price To Pray - II" (5:10) Samuel is commanded to recite passages from the Bible as the music speeds along beneath, throughout. The weave is a kind of whole-band study of discipline and timing as stops, power weaves, incidental instrumentals, and vocals flit in and out of the flow. Cool violin solo at the 3:00 mark followed by a solid metal (Eddie Van Halen-like) electric guitar soloing intermixed with some angry vocals. (8.75/10)
6. "A Dream That Strayed - II" (3:00) dated synth chords and bass pulses support vocals from Anne Trautman and Lars Köhler in the roles of Samuel's girlfriend and Samuel, respectively. (Samuel is saying goodbye in fulfillment of his father's command.) Ends with a dreamy patch of synth/keys sounding like something out of Interstellar before bleeding into the next song. (9/10)
7. "A? - II" (2:53) continues the music from the previous song as Samuel laments and his Father commends him. Nice guitar solo in the second half doubles up on the emotional distress that Samuel is going through. (5/5)
8. "Heaven" (1:30) takes the themes of the previous song and turns it into an organ-supported choral piece of supportive advice: "Don't walk away" and "heaven is inside you." Nice! (5/5)
9. "The Word Made Flesh" (7:05) Samuel's girlfriend is pregnant! Beautiful vocals from Samuel's girlfriend (Anne Trautmann) and a second female performing vocalise in the background (also Anne? Jana Pöche? Annemarie Schmid?) It gets heavy in the fifth minute as men enter and try to exert their power. Argument between Father and Mother is powerful--ending in some kind of violence (I think). Really beautiful song, great music and, again, great vocal performances from the women. (14/15)
10. "Hear My Voice Tonight" (9:57) opens with a piercingly high, beautiful female voice, soon joined by a male, and then another. Three voices woven together very nicely. One man takes the leave saying how he "was saved by loving once before." A true stage-crafted song, with multiple voices participating as well as several musical themes weaving in and out of the mix, this makes me wonder if the band has aspirations to perform this as a musical stage play. They'd have to expand it but that would give them time to develop the characters a little better. I think it would work wonderfully. A somber piano-based motif takes over at the 5:30 mark, oboe soloing beautifully over the top. 75 seconds later a chunky-bass-heavy theme takes over within which the vocal ensemble reappear to assert themselves (though I'm not sure what has been accomplished.) Things soften and slow for the jazzy final minute as sax and electric guitars take us into the album's final song. (17.5/20)
11. "Come To Your Father" (10:07) starts off very heavy--almost URIAH HEEP-like but heavier--with some quite strong rasp-metal vocals from Noah (Lars Köhler). Jana Pöche's vocals representing the mother are quite strong, not unlike prog metal diva Simone Simons or Anneke van Giersbergen, as are "twin" Anne Trautmann's. The music then settles at 2:30 into a beautiful SYLVAN-esque section over which the story of dysfunctional parenting is displayed in a raw Posthumous Silence-kind of way. Beautiful vocalise in this section from someone (Annemarie Schmid?). The seventh minute sees a thickening of sound with a great chord sequence that slowly builds over the next five minutes as the instruments work toward the final climax. Well done! Great balance of instruments and great sound production. (19/20)
Total time: 53:22
Five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music--carrying a powerful story with powerful, well constructed music just the way progressive rock music was meant to do.
Great storytelling, great musical construct, great performances from all vocalists. My favorite part of the entire album were the two prolonged sections of female vocalise. Who was that singer?
Definitely an album that I will enjoy for many years.
11. MYSTERY One Among the Living (2010)
This is the album with which I first became aware of the Mystery sound--the rich, polished, emotional sound that, to these ears, epitomize all that is right with the Neo Prog movement. Replete with more-modern sounds that were pioneered by the Trick of the Tail and, especially, Wind and Wuthering albums and from which the Neo Prog movement was born, what makes Mystery such a delight to listen to is not just the wonderful standards set by their vocalists--here BenoÃ®t David--or the interesting and complex compositions of Michel St-PÃ¨re or even the great evenly-distributed performances by the instrumentalists or even the oft-soul-melting melodies, but, for me, the anticipation of waiting for each electric guitar solo offered by Michel. His guitar play is so amazing, so melodic though technically proficient, that I find myself perking up every time I see him guesting on other people's albums.
Other Great Neo Prog Albums
- Olha Rostovska / vocals
- Tim Sobolev / vocals
- Sergey Obolonkov / vocals
- Roman Gorielov / vocals, acoustic guitar
- Olga Vodolazkaya / vocals, acoustic guitar (12)
- Max Velychko / electric & acoustic guitars
- Sergii Kovalov / accordion, vocals
- Georgiy Katunin / wheel lyre (1)
- Maria Baranovska / violin
- Alexandr Pastuchov / bassoon
- Elena Kushiy / flute
- Igor Solovey / French horn
- Tatiana Kurilko / English horn
- Michail Sidorenko / alto sax (5)
- Oleg Prokhorov / bass
- Viktor Syrotin / drums
- Kostya Shepelenko / drums (5,7,8,12)
NINE STOMES CLOSE One Eye on the Sunrise (2012)Nine Stones Close vocalist Marc Atkinson has a voice and style that, IMO, nearly duplicates the great voice of one of rock’n’roll’s all-time greatest vocalists, rocker JON BON JOVI. That alone give this album some amazing weight. Now put that controlled, emotional voice together with some gorgeous, never-overdone neo prog music and you have the makings of a truly addictive listening experience. Lush beauty reigns supreme throughout this album and yet it retains—no, revels, in—its rock’n’roll roots and a neo-proggish sound palette.
3. "Little Boy Blue" (5:36) opens with seering electric lead guitar before the full instrumental palette joins in. In full swing, the song is heavy, thick, dramatic, definitely proggy. The presence of the wicked Hammond organ is powerful! As are the bass and impassioned vocal. Wow! This is different! At 3:25 things slow down and a kind of bluey PINK FLOYD guitar solo takes center stage before everything falls away save synths to support TPE's raspy voice (so far forward!) The song finishes with a nice synth strings and real strings motif before bleeding with the organ into the next song. (9/10)
4. "Little Bo Peep" (7:17) TPE's tribute to JEAN-LUC PONTY?! It opens like something from Jean-Luc's mid-to-late-70s production with an absolutely stellar bass line. Ann Caren's multiple-track vocals are a fresh and effective ploy. The bass, swirling keys, and rhythm guitar riff remain constant in their embedment with JLP while the vocals and lead guitar soli develop in more TPE stylings. A fresh and clever stylistic approach. Even the drums sound more human than ever! Ann's vocal in that last minute with its orchestral accompaniment is so crystalline! Beautiful! (13.35/15)
5. "Blind Mice" (4:11) opens as if a continuation from the last song with a spry trio of classical guitar, violin, and piano. Wonderful! One of those displays of virtuosity that is both performance and compositional. Wow! We are so lucky to have this man serving this fare to us in 2019! (10/10)
6. "Simple Simon" (5:33) opening with a heavy fullness as if coming from a late 1960s blues-rock band--the swirl of the dirty Hammond organ especially. Though the music quickly transitions into a more modern sound palette, the lead guitar sound and grungy Hammond remain throughout. The vocal and successive instrumental soli remain consistent and true to the opening compositional choice of sober portentousness. (9.25/10)
7. "Humpty Dumpty" (6:41) A TPE gift in the form of a folk rock song. Comparisons elude me though the sounds, styles, and riffs are so familiar to me! TPE's multi-instrumental machine-gun bursts confuse and distract one from divining the essence beneath. Fuzz guitar, bouncing and swirling Hammond, Claire Torey-like background voices, and deeply driving bass and rhythm lines. The song's only flaw is a sad return to the drumming style and sounds of TPE albums of old. (13.5/15)
8. "Rewrite the Rhymes" (7:54) some old sounds (chunky bass, Hammond) help drive this emotional and almost frenetic song. The song construct is masterful, the instrumental performances flawless, the sound palette at times awkward, the sound engineering inconsistent. (12.5/15)
Total Time 51:15
A minor masterpiece of progressive rock music. Once again TPE comes through to show us how it's done--to educate today's artists as to the standards of sophistication and force that the original prog artists of the 1970s aspired to.
- Clive Nolan / keyboards, backing vocals
- Peter Gee / bass guitar
- Scott Higham / drums, backing vocals
Total Time: 54:45
After starting off with such a bang, the album started to peter out and soften noticeably as one approached the end.
A near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a shining example of mastery of a cross-sampling of styles though still well within the Neo Prog umbrella.
- Mike Holmes / guitar
- Neil Durant / keyboards
- Tim Esau / bass
1. "A Missile" (6:40) opens with some heavy riffing from the guitar, bass, organ, and drums while Peter Nicholls enters with his more insistent voice while always maintaining careful and clear diction. The song is hard-driving but does nothing for me either sonically, emotionally, or lyrically. It feels routine, robotic, one-dimensional, and, ultimately, forgettable. (11/15)
2. "Rise" (6:49) opens with apocalyptic wind noises and orchestral hits before a backwards sound loop takes over. Slowly, Peter's gentle voice sings over the atmospheric loop. At the end of his first chorus a very bass-heavy whole-band motif starts and drives powerfully forward. A strange chamber strings interlude breaks in for half a minute before we bounce back to the frenetic sonic lashing that is the second motif. Some nice, simple, but noticeable synth work is mixed into the thrum as well as some lead guitar work behind Peter's singing. In the sixth minute all kinds of Middle Eastern sounds and computer-effected vocals are introduced, but then they back off for a return to Peter's singing being the central focus. The final minute is simple, with Peter's vocal tying things up over that atmospheric loop from the beginning. Decent song! (13.5/15)
3. "Stay Down" (7:55) a long, slow, bare bones introductory period of electric piano arpeggi and synth washes and, later, chamber strings and 12-string guitar picking, allows Peter Nicholls to shine at his sensitive best. Mellotron voices and bass pedals add a great GENESIS feel. In fact it's four minutes into this one before anything changes--but then it gets tense, ominous, before breaking into a PORCUPINE TREE-like heaviness for its instrumental peak just before the five minute mark. When spaciousness is restored for Peter to sing around the six minute mark, it's merely a teasing pause before re-launching into that heavy PT territory for a final burst before some tick tocks. Powerful, seasoned prog with no fill and full power throughout. A top three song for me. (14/15)
4. "Alampandria" (3:48) opens beautifully with middle eastern pipe over sustained synth white noise synth. I love this! Then there is a developmental shift at 1:45 into more GENESIS-like Neo Prog territory. (Think deep throbbing parts of "Supper's Ready" or The Lamb). Small Mike Nicholls dramatic vocal, seering guitar solo, and organ finish this off. (8.9/10)
5. "Shallow Bay" (6:21) sensitive solo piano opens this one until the full band kicks in around 0:40. It quickly establishes itself as a melodic, syrupy song in the vein of radio-friendly prog hits. Drumming is outstanding--even a little flashy--throughout, and then the mood shifts quite dramatically at 3:00 into a more COLLAGE "Moonshine"-like vein. Very pretty--especially the keys--while the drumming remains quite showy and impressive. Beautiful song. Excellent emotional guitar solo in the fourth and fifth minutes with great band and Mellotron support.
This is where the advantages of a seasoned band shine through. Definitely a song I'll be listening to over and over for a long time. Perfection. A reminder of why I keep listening to new releases. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)
6. "If Anything" (6:03) cool drum machine opening before synth wash joins in giving it a MIKE AND THE MECHANICS or "Captain of My Heart" feel to it. Fretless bass enters just before Peter Nicholls enters singing in a whispy upper register voice--which is unusual for him. Real drums join in at the end of the second minute. I have to admit that I really like the work of the synths, fretless, and voice. Acoustic nylon string guitar seals the "Captain of My Heart" reference. A very nice, gentle, pretty song for late night wine and fireplace sitting--at least until the second half of the fifth minute when things get E.A. Poe dark--sound effects, scary church organ and all! The only thing it lacks is a true 'hook" to make it memorable. (8.75/10)
7. "For Another Lifetime" (15:22) opens with weird circus calliope/squeeze-box-like chord sequence. Peter begins singing and it doesn't quite fit; Peter's nondescript melody line does not blend well with the synthesized calliope/squeeze box--nothing does, even the "Entangled"-like eerie synth added over the top. Just before the three minute mark Peter's voice is mute-distorted to try to create an even eerier feel and then the band breaks into a full on "As Sure as Eggs is Eggs/Apocalypse in 9/8 imitation, trying to make it their own by adding some music box tinkles and some Duke-era bass synth chords. Halfway through the sixth minute the pace quickens and a more HACKETT-like section ensues. At 7:00 the music begins to feel more like ASIA or LOVERBOY. The "resistance" chorus just lacks ... hooks. Another switch into full on GENESIS territory at 8:20 while Peter continues singing as carefully, succinctly as ever. Power chords and more eerie organ and synths in the ninth. The music keeps bouncing around, trying to vary its pace and palette, no doubt, until finally finding its "pocket" in the twelfth minute with the "for another lifetime" chorus and ensuing excellent lead guitar solo. The voice Mellotron sound definitely makes it feel like some crescendo moment in a GENESIS song. Then we devolve to a bare piano in support of Peter's end vocal passage from 13:30 to the "holding on" line and the gorgeous TFK-like end. Pretty awesome song if derivative and perhaps overly complex. The band definitely put some work into this one. A strange dichotomy is that eerie circus-like motif used for the first half and then disappearing the more powerful the song became. (27/30)
CD 2 (55:39)
1. "The Great Spirit Way" (21:45) Prog by the numbers trying to be Hammond-centric. In the first half, none of the individual instrumental threads works--especially the drums, bass, and guitars; they all seem to be at odds with one another. The second half gets spread out and less dense with some electric piano and "acoustic" guitar picking before a spacey synth diversion settles us (and Peter) down. Interesting "xylophone" over strings. But, unfortnuately, it's all so obviously MIDI-computer keyboard generated. In the sixteenth minute they try to GENESIS/WAKEMAN the music back up to engage us but it's all so familiar (thought the drumming finally gets good). After the crescendo in the 17th minute, the YES-like dénouement is a big letdown. (38/45)
2. "Fire and Security" (5:26) the welcome sound of steel-string acoustic guitar strumming opens this one. Peter's vocal starts out rather typical but then gets very emotional. As a matter of fact, there are sections here that I display vocal affectations that I can't remember hearing in his voice very often. Very nice guitar soloing throughout the second half. (9/10)
3. "Perfect Space" (8:33) cymbol play, snare, bass, and classical guitar make this one sound a little jazzy or Latin-infused. Peter's voice is even mixed more forward than usual. Interesting! A new sound palette! The little electric guitar solo at 1:38 can't even destroy the feel of this one but the organ and bass pedals at 2:36 for the chorus does. The bass and drums are trying admirably to hold it together but those organs! Then the guitar turns metal and we've lost that loving Latin feeling. The return of "Get 'em out by Friday"! Let me out! Nice first half; poor second. Not even the walking bass play in the sixth minute or some solid electric guitar soloing in the final minute can recapture that awesomeness. (16.5/20)
4. "Fallout" (19:55) "CTTE 2"? What kind of lyrics are these? Nonsensical? The first three minutes sure seems so. At four minutes we finally get into some meat. I like the clavichord and rolling bass line. The singing harmonies are great but the lyrics are still so innocuous. GREAT transition into the instrumental section in the sixth minute (bass and electric guitar)--a powerful section that sustains its engaging sounds and play for several minutes. Nice drumming in the next instrumental section. And fretless bass! At the eight minute mark we go soft and spacey again (very GENESIS-like). Another sound (and key) switch in the eleventh minute: piano-base, more cymbal play, going into an instrumental section with piano solo, MIDI-ed tuned percussion, and chord section into a late-"Gates of Delirium" section for the fourteenth and fifteenth minutes. (A little too similar to "Gates," even through the guitar solo and drum end, even into the pre-"Soon" quiet, spacey section). The final two minutes is, unfortunately, also an embarrassing imitation of the "Soon" finale of "Gates of Delirium." Very nice sound. I'd rate it higher if it weren't so derivative. (34/40)
Total Time 108:37
Can we be tired of Peter Nicholls' melodies, pronunciation/elocution, and phrasing, please? Can we be tired of the Duke-like drum machines and differently engineered & effected tracks that are so blatantly and poorly spliced-together, please? Can we say we've had enough imitation and blatant derivation of the 1970's "classics?" Still this is SO MUCH BETTER than the high-acclaimed yet soulless "album of the year" from 2014, Road of Bones.
Cirrus Bay the Search for Joy (2014)
Seven Steps to the Green Door Fetish (2015)
Lifesigns Cardigan (2017)
T Anti-Matter Poetry (2010)
T Psychoanorexia (2013)
Edison's Children In the Last Waking Moments… (2011)
T Fragmentropy (2015)
T Solipsystemology (2019)
Other Albums Worthy of Mention
IQ The Road of Bones (2014)
Modern-Rock Ensemble Touch the Mystery (2016)
Karfagen Lost Symphony (2011)
Karfagen Spektra (2016)
Airbag All Rights Removed (2011)
Airbag Disconnected (2016)
Galahad Beyond the Realms of Euphoria (2012)
Silhouette the World Is Flat and Other Alternative Facts (2017)
The Psychedelic Ensemble The Myth of Dying (2010)
Barock Project Detachment (2017)
Cirrus Bay Whimsical Weather (2014)
Mystery Lies and Butterflies (2018)
Cirrus Bay The Art of Vanishing (2019)
Shamall Continuation (2016)
Yuka & Chronoship Ship (2018)
Yuka & Chronoship The 3rd Planetary Chronicles (2013)
Believe World Is Round (2010)
Believe The Warmest Sun in Winter (2013)
Seven Steps to the Green Door The? Book (2011)
Cirrus Bay Places Unseen (2016)
Other Artists Considered