Album Review – Rain’s “Singularity”

Rain, Singularity, November 23, 2020
Tracks: Devils Will Reign (7:02), Dandelion (7:01), Walkaway (12:51), Magician (11:17), Singularity (9:24)
Band Members: Rob Groucutt: Vocals, Guitar, Keys
Mirron Webb: Vocals, Guitar
Andy Edwards, Drums plus additional instruments
John Jowitt: Bass

Digging back into the end of 2020, we’ve come across another album from last year that’s not to be missed. UK-based Rain feature unique vocal harmonies, lush musical textures, and compelling lyrics. The band features two well known prog musicians in John Jowitt of IQ, Arena, *Frost, and Jadis and Andy Edwards of IQ and *Frost. Vocals and guitars are handled by Rob Groucutt and Mirron Webb, who both excel on the album. The talents of these four member mesh masterfully on Singularity

Right from the get-go on “Devils Will Reign” the band makes it clear that they aren’t going to limit themselves to any pre-cut style or expectations. The vocal harmonies are beautiful, and the musical shifts mirror the vocal shifts as the song bounces back and forth between Groucutt and Webb on vocals. The Spanish guitar passage was both unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable. Lyrically they pull no punches, but I’ll leave my interpretation out of it and let you absorb it for yourself.

“Walkaway” sounds like it could be a Haken b-side. It isn’t metal, but it sounds very much like Haken’s quieter moments, particularly on The Mountain. The combination of vocal harmonies and the abrupt way in which they sing the lyrics sounds very similar to Haken. Musically the song is more reminiscent of pre-pop Steven Wilson. Some instrumental passages remind me of Steven Wilson’s “Transience” off Hand. Cannot. Erase. Lyrically the song appears to rail against growing totalitarianism that many western countries are engaging in using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse. No conformity here. Rain think for themselves. The vocals take on a layered robotic sound about ten minutes in, which brings in the theme of growing technocracy that appears elsewhere on the album.

Your freedoms are old news
And lying is double truth
Your freedoms are old news
You’re missing the good times

You’re craving human connection
A new world is here before you
And no one knows what to do – no
 – Walkaway

“Walkaway” builds to a soaring guitar solo backed by a simple yet prominent bassline. The song then returns to the Haken-like chanting “walk away, hesitate, take a day, isolate, walk away, hesitate…” At just under 13 minutes, the song is epic in the traditional progressive rock sense. It has the space to move through different musical and lyrical themes. 

Rain shines with a truly unique sound on”Magician.” I suppose the vocal harmonies are a nod to Gentle Giant, but the varying musical styles the band moves in and out of throughout the song keep it sounding fresh. Lyrically the song seems to tap into that theme of growing technological overreach, and that gets reflected in the music as well through various keyboard sounds. Even the guitar work at points reminds me of a computer with a simple back and forth that could be interpreted as the 1s and 0s of a computer. The guitar takes on a bit of a Robert Fripp tone in those moments. 

The final track, “Singularity” is the most atmospheric and experimental song on the album. The vocals again remind me of Ross Jennings from Haken, but the music is much softer with swirling keyboards, airy guitar sounds, smooth jazzy drums, and steady bass. In the second half it start to sound experimental with various sampled sounds and lyrics repeated from earlier in the album – almost as if the band are sampling themselves.

In some ways the final song is a departure from the rest of the album, but at the same time it really isn’t because the band never limited themselves to any one sound. They try different things, and careful listenings will pick up new musical and vocal sounds on repeated listens. I appreciate the band’s courage in their lyrical content. In an era of mass conformity, Rain throw conformity out the window in both their stated words and their music.

Singularity would definitely have made my best of 2020 list had I heard it when it came out. It is incredibly interesting on all levels. The vocal harmonies really lift their sound by adding an extra layer of complexity to their already-complex musical soundscape. This band works really well together, and I hope they continue to release new music in the future. 

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Youtube playlist of whole album:

Metal Mondays: Iran’s Atravan – “The Grey Line”

Atravan, The Grey Line, 2021
The Pendulum (2:35), The Perfect Stranger (6:45), My Wrecked House (6:05), Vertigo (5:09), Dancing on a Wire (6:01), The Grey Line (9:12), Uncertain Future (3:35)
Masoud Alishahi – Vocals
Shayan Dianati – Guitars
Arwin Iranpour – Bass
Marjan Modarres – Piano, Keyboards
Shahin Fadaei – Drums
Pedram Niknafs – backing vocals (tracks 2, 4) 

There’s a first time for everything, folks, and I think today’s Metal Mondays review is the first time we at Progarchy have ever reviewed an album from an Iranian band. I know it’s the first time I have. Tehran’s Atravan released their latest album, The Grey Line, about a month ago, and it has quickly become my favorite new release of 2021. It’s absolutely phenomenal.

Atravan can be best described as a progressive metal band with atmospheric elements. The songs are incredibly well-written, with the instruments all played expertly. The bass plays a prominent role – arguably more prominent than the guitars. The Grey Line isn’t particularly heavy, although it has its heavier moments. “Dancing on a Wire” for instance leans on a synth sound with acoustic guitars and soaring vocals. “My Wrecked House” has the same elements, but it has a much heavier sound with heavier drums and electric guitars. By the end of “The Perfect Stranger,” the band is pounding away in full-blown metal.

All of those elements remind me most of Riverside, especially on the aforementioned track. The bass and keyboards also play a central role in Riverside, with spacey guitars layered over the top. There are also moments that remind me of the atmospheric aspects of Porcupine Tree or even Devin Townsend (think “Deadhead”), but Atravan strike me as being rather unique at the same time. Maybe it’s the warmth and depth of Masoud Alishahi’s vocals (yes, the lyrics are in English). Maybe it’s the stunning Floydian keyboards. Maybe it’s the way the band builds a song gently but gradually through the combination of guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals. The drums are intricate throughout. Shahin Fadaei always plays to whatever the song requires in the moment. Sometimes that requires rapid-fire double-bass pounding, and sometimes it requires a more sedate Nick Mason-style beat. Careful with that axe, Atravan.

The keyboards provide unique sounds throughout the album that set a melancholic and contemplative mood. The opening of the nine-minute title track is all keyboards. The song slowly builds with added vocals before a loud but simultaneously gentle bass takes center stage. The song continues to build with additional instruments picking up. It takes about five minutes before they return to a really heavy sound, but everything works so perfectly that you end up appreciating whatever and however the band plays. None of the songs feel rushed, which is rather surprising in an album that’s only forty minutes long.

The electric guitars on the opening of the final track, “Uncertain Future,” have a spacey Gilmour-esque sound to them. They’re used sparingly as the bass, drums, and keyboards begin to take over. It’s a three and a half minute-long track, yet it still doesn’t hurry. It asks the listener to slow down with it and just enjoy the moment. It’s an instrumental track to help you unwind at the end, even though the album is on the short side. In closing it out this way, Atravan bookend the album, since the opening track was also a spacey instrumental piece that served to warm up the listener for the rest of the record. 

Definitely give The Grey Line a listen. I’m so glad the band reached out to us, because I probably wouldn’t have come across this album otherwise. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to become my favorite album of the year thus far. There’s a lot of 2021 left to go, but Atravan have set a very high bar for everyone else in the prog world to hurdle. Every track on this album is fantastic. I look forward to more from the band in the future.
Apple Music


Album Review: Morpheus Project’s “Mozaick”

Guest Review by Chloe Mogg

Coated with elements to make this one of the best progressive albums of the year, Morpheus Project are set to release their elevating new album ‘Mozaick’ on March 19th. With previous singles ‘Cry for Freedom’ and ‘Nights to Remember’ on the release, the highly anticipated debut album is an energetic introduction into the mind of musical director Mustafa Khetty. Receiving rave reviews from the likes of Prog Magazine, Scala Radio, Classic FM and BBC Introducing, ‘Mozaick’ is a force to be reckoned with in the industry and issues itself with importance to be heard. 

An expansive release that showcases Morpheus Project’s diversity, the musicianship within the album is breathtaking. Featuring talented musicians throughout the release, Morpheus Project are a collective specialising in creating music without boundaries. Exceeding any expectations and walking with it’s head held firmly high, ‘Mozaick’ has something for everyone. Showcasing Mustafa’s Indian classical roots, a progressive rock side, a realm of experimental juices and fusion thrown into the mix too, ‘Mozaick’ is unapologetic and free-spirited. 

A reflection of Mustafa’s personal endeavours, life experiences and observations as a whole, there’s elements of intimacy within the album that draws listeners in even further. A reflective album that will make you sit and think, ‘Mozaick’ doesn’t follow your typical rulebook – and that’s what makes it even more impressive.

Jarrod Gosling and Cecilia Fage

Album Review: Cobalt Chapel’s “Orange Synthetic”

Cobalt Chapel, Orange Synthetic, Klove Recordings, January 29, 2021
Tracks: In Company (4:27), The Sequel (3:49), Message To (3:18), A Father’s Lament (3:41), Our Angel Polygon (4:32), Cry A Spiral (4:53), It’s The End, The End (5:26), Pretty Mire, Be My Friend (4:04), E.B. (2:15), Orange Synthetic (6:21)

Yorkshire, UK, duo Cobalt Chapel recently released their second album, Orange Synthetic, and it’s a wonderful contemporary progressive take on the psychedelic music of the 1960s. It has fresh production values with lush textures and glowing vocals. So who are Cobalt Chapel? Cecilia Fage (from Matt Berry & The Maypoles) and Jarrod Gosling (from I Monster). Gosling also happens to make the album artwork for Tim Bowness‘ solo albums. 

Fage’s vocals are the clear centerpiece of the album, and her voice is absolutely stunning. It’s treated with some echoey effects that give it a choral feeling, which matches the aesthetic implied by the band’s name. The album sounds fantastic, with the vocals and music clear, clean, and distinct. The various organs and keyboards are the primary musical sounds, with their textures swirling around the listeners head as Fage sings in the center. The guitar, drums, and soft bass complete the psychedelic sound. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-sounding album out today. It is mixed very well with everything easy to pick out. Nothing is muddled. You can even make out the clicking of keys or buttons on whatever instrument Gosling is playing at the end of “A Father’s Lament.” There’s a slight hum in the background at that point which makes you feel like you’re in the room with him as he closes out the song. The whole record is really a pleasure to listen to.

There are folk elements to the music, with the album being influenced by Yorkshire itself. The song “E.B.” sounds the most folky, with instruments kept to a relative minimum and Fage’s voice carrying the brief track. Overall though the music retains a psychedelic vibe through heavy use of keyboards and organs, along with very 60s-sounding drums and guitars. The music is much more upbeat than the type of psychedelic music I’m more familiar with, though. It isn’t as spacey, although there are times when it sounds like they’re about to launch into the spacier side of this corner of rock music. They never quite get there all the way, except for on “Cry A Spiral,” which is the spaciest track on the record. Even on that song the ending is heavier and more lush-sounding, ending with a light touch of saxophone and various organs. Melody takes a central position on the album, which is perhaps what makes this album so appealing on repeated listens. You’re left feeling refreshed after listening to Orange Synthetic

If I had to make one complaint, it’s that I would have preferred some longer extended instrumental sections. The end of the first track, “In Company,” breaks into what sounds like it’s going to be a wonderfully psychedelic Floydian soundscape, but then it breaks off suddenly. The second track similarly fades out as it enters an instrumental passage. The third track does the same thing. It drops into the beginning of a 1960s-style psychedelic mood, yet it cuts off after a few brief seconds. At about 43 minutes in length, I think there’s room on the album for some longer musical exploration. They set the listener up for it, but they leave me longing for that instrumental space to breathe.

The title track, which ends the record, is the longest on the album at over six minutes, and it has a longer instrumental passage in the middle that feels much more natural for this kind of music. When Fage’s vocals kick in again after that passage, I’m left satisfied. In that regard the song is the perfect ending for the album. I just wish more of the songs on the album more generously balanced the instrumental side of this style of music with Fage’s beautiful vocals by having more extended musical passages. 

I highly recommend Cobalt Chapel’s sophomore album, Orange Synthetic. It’s a refreshing blend of upbeat psychedelic music with stunningly beautiful vocals presented with choral overtones. The music is accessible, yet complex enough to reward on repeated listens. Cobalt Chapel have masterfully brought the psychedelic sounds of a bygone era into fresh territory for a contemporary audience. 

Buy the album on CD, vinyl, or digital download, including signed copies of physical media:

Neal Morse, Pete Trewavas, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt

Parallel Universes: Transatlantic’s Dueling Epics

This is probably the only time I’ll have a legitimate reason to use this cool new WordPress feature.

Transatlantic have reached the ripe old age of 21, and with that they’ve released a brand new album. Wait, that isn’t right. They’ve released two brand new albums. Well, no, they haven’t really done that either. What they have done is released two versions of one album: one at ~65 minutes and the other at ~91 minutes. The Absolute Universe: The Breath of Life is the short one, and The Absolute Universe: Forevermore is the long one. For the sake of clarity (both mine and yours), I’m going to refer to the albums as the extended version and the abridged version.

Now why on earth, you may ask, would a band want to release two different versions of an album? Excellent question. I was a bit miffed when Big Big Train did it with Folklore (the vinyl and Hi-Res audio version was longer with some tracks from the Wassail EP and a slightly altered track listing), and I’m a bit miffed that Transatlantic has done it. Apparently the band couldn’t come to an agreement on whether they should release a longer version of what they had written or a condensed version, so they decided to release both.

The abridged version is $9.99 on iTunes, while the extended edition is $16.99, so it’ll cost you just under $30 to buy the downloads. You may need to take out a loan to buy physical copies. And don’t think you can get away with buying just the extended version thinking you’ll just get the abridged version plus some extra tracks. Nope they’ve gone and changed things in the tracks that overlap, so in many ways they’re very different. There’s also a third version on Blu-Ray only that combines the two into a ~96 minute version. Good grief. I haven’t heard that version, nor do I intend to.

If you’re going to buy only one of them, I suggest you buy the extended version. It has a much better flow to it with smoother transitions than the abridged version. Even though it’s longer, it isn’t packed with filler. To my ear it sounds more like a Transatlantic album. There are more songs with Roine Stolt on lead vocals. Yes of course he sings on the abridged version, but he sings less in the second half of that album. That makes the abridged version seem to morph into a Neal Morse album as it comes to a close. “Lonesome Rebel” towards the end of extended version remedies that by restoring some balance. In addition to Roine’s stellar vocals, the mix of wonderful electric and acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies really makes this track stand out.

Continue reading “Parallel Universes: Transatlantic’s Dueling Epics”

Album Review – Simon Collins’ “Becoming Human”

Guest Review by Chloe Mogg

Simon Collins, Becoming Human, 2020
1. Into the Fray (1:18), 2. Becoming Human (4:17), 3. The Universe Inside of Me (6:56), 4. Man Made Man (4:32), 5. This is the Time (3:55), 6. Thoughts Become Matter (5:05), 7. I Will Be Waiting (7:27), 8. No Love (4:02), 9. Living in Silence (4:09), 10. 40 Years (4:18), 11. So Real (4:28), 12. Dead Ends (9:06)

No stranger to the music industry due to his music legend father Phil Collins, Simon Collins takes centre stage in empowering album ‘Becoming Human’. There’s no doubt that songwriting flows through his veins, and the latest release from Simon Collins completely confirms this. 

Known for performing in band Sound of Contact, Simon’s solo project was produced by keyboardist and sound designer Robbie Bronniman, and features one of the key players from SoC. Released via Frontiers Records, this refreshing album pays odes to the greats while layering it’s authencity on the table. Crossing through realms of pop, industrial and rock, there’s no need to completely label the sound of this album.

 Having gained support from Prog Magazine and sites across the globe, ‘Becoming Human’ features 12 tracks of progressive music with subtle fragrances of futuristic electronica in it’s mix. Exploring lyrical themes such as personal loss, addiction and the nature of our place in the universe, the relevant album is speaking to thousands across the globe due to the current state of the world. 

Led by leading singles ‘Becoming Human’ and ‘The Universe Indie of Me’, this album is one of those releases that needs constant plays to fully experience it’s journey. A rollercoaster ride through elements of nostalgic prog, there’s nudges to artists such as Vangelis, Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Steven Wilson within the release, while still holding onto it’s authenticity. Commenting both on Simon’s personal feelings, the relatable album is something that can speak to many. 

During these uneasy times for the globe, we’re left questioning what is real, and what it truly means to be a human. ‘Becoming Human’ requires your gaze and will captivate you into a realm of thought-provoking feelings. A true asset in the progressive world, Simon Collins could be as huge as his dad. 

Big Big Train Release Remixed Version of “The Underfall Yard” Track Ahead of Album Reissue

Today the mighty Big Big Train released the remixed edition of their 23-minute epic, “The Underfall Yard,” in advance of the reissue of their 2009 album on April 9. First impressions – the mix sounds warmer with more prominent bass. The big guitar solo is also different, although I’m not exactly sure why. I think I prefer the original solo better. Lovely video to go along with the track, though.

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Steven Wilson Bites the Future… and the Fans?

Before we get into the review itself, I want to be clear that I have the upmost respect for Steven Wilson. No matter what I think of The Future Bites, I am not calling into question Wilson’s integrity as a musician, writer, producer, or artist. Everything he does, he does well. This go around he decided to make a pop album, and the pop world certainly has much to learn from Steven Wilson. This is pop in the vein of Tears for Fears or Talk Talk, so if you like those bands, you may like The Future Bites. I don’t particularly enjoy those bands, although I respect them. I also want to make clear that I don’t see what Wilson is doing with this album as being just like what Genesis did after Steve Hackett departed. Genesis sold out and started writing boring trash, both musically and lyrically. Wilson’s lyrics and themes on The Future Bites lead the listener to reflection. This is far from “selling out.” Watching some recent interviews with Wilson only confirmed for me that Wilson is an honest man. This album is incredibly self aware, which I’m sure made this a very vulnerable album for him to make. With all that said, let this long review begin.

Perhaps not surprisingly The Future Bites is doing rather well in the charts, particularly in the UK (number 4 overall as of this writing). It’s wholeheartedly a “pop” album, whatever that actually means. I recall thinking that 2017’s To The Bone was a pop album when it came out, but going back to it now I see that it has far more in common with Wilson’s previous solo work than it does with The Future Bites. There are a few moments on To The Bone that clearly connect with this album, but overall it was a rock album.

Contrarily the remnants of what could be called “rock” are pretty much gone on The Future Bites. That doesn’t necessarily mean Wilson will never return to a traditional progressive rock sound, but he has said in interviews that he isn’t interested in making progressive rock music right now. As to why, well, we can only speculate. Some might say he’s making a lot more money doing this, but I don’t think that is what’s going on here. I think he’s tired of doing what he’s done before, and he’s pushing himself into new territory that reflects the kind of music he enjoyed when he was growing up. 

For the most part the album sounds quite stunning. Not musically. Musically it’s nothing special at all, like most pop. It’s still more musically exceptional than 99% of what passes for pop these days, but compared to an album like Hand. Cannot. Erase., it pales. The actual mixing of the record is quite fantastic, apart from the vocals on “Count of Unease,” which sound like they were recorded in a college dorm bathroom. This record is Wilson’s first time mixing in Dolby Atmos. I’d love to hear the album on a good Atmos system, but I don’t have one of those. Even so the regular stereo mix sounds crystal clear, and there is a lot of depth to the various sounds he employs.

It’s really many of those sounds he chose that I take issue with. He leans heavily into electronic music, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of my favorite newer bands, Oak, uses elements of electronic music, and I know Wilson has done that before in the past, but Oak and Wilson always left the rock elements in tact. Without the rock, it leaves much to be desired. I don’t know much about electronic music, but I know there are artists and composers who specialize in and excel at it. On The Future Bites it feels like Wilson is using the electronic aspects in the same way he has in the past, but without the rock the album feels like it’s missing something. The other issue I have with the record is some of Wilson’s vocals. 

Continue reading “Steven Wilson Bites the Future… and the Fans?”

Big Big Train Announce “The Underfall Yard” Reissue

Absolutely brilliant news from Big Big Train. After teasing us regarding a reissue of 2009’s The Underfall Yard for the past couple years, Big Big Train is finally giving it to us in April! It’ll contain the original album plus a second CD of extras, including two brand new tracks. It’ll also be released on vinyl for the first time in addition to the two-CD digipack. More from the band after the jump: Continue reading “Big Big Train Announce “The Underfall Yard” Reissue”

Metal Mondays: New Track from XSKULL8

Listening to the new track, “Your Final Act,” by XSKULL8 got me feeling a little nostalgic. This is the kind of metal I used to listen to more often about ten years or so ago, and while I’ve drifted more into strictly prog and prog metal territory, this song has just enough of a djent edge in the guitars to make it quite appealing. The vocals are rock solid in the cleans and in the distortions. It’s heavy, and it has a pounding groove. I think I would definitely enjoy a whole album like this track, perhaps with a little more musical exploration and extended instrumental passages. But XSKULL8 are a good reminder that rock and metal are far from dead.