A few days ago Nick D’Virgilio, Neal Morse, and Ross Jennings released a single, “Julia,” off their upcoming record, Troika. Based off this single and the personnel involved, I’m guessing the album is going to focus heavily on the vocals and feature many vocal harmonies.
Ross Jennings comments on the track,
With my original demo clocking in at around the 8-minute mark and possibly leaning too close to ‘prog epic’ than the singer/songwriter vibe we were attempting to present on this record, Neal arranged my lengthy ballad into something more concise, in-keeping with the album’s essence and writing in a powerful new chorus in the process!
“This one was all about the 3-part vocal harmony interplay and ‘pull-at-the-heartstring’ lyrics which deals with themes of regret and forgiveness in the context of a broken father-daughter relationship.
Recorded during lockdown, the process began with Neal Morse writing some acoustic songs that he thought would be enhanced by strong vocal harmonies. He already knew how well his voice blended with former Spock’s Beard band-mate and Big Big Train drummer/ vocalist, Nick D’Virgilio who came on board and, considering a third man, the Americans sought out Haken’s Ross Jennings from the UK to complete the trio. All three found they had songs that would benefit from the three part harmonic blend, and so they pooled their resources, inputting creatively into each others compositions.
Neal comments: “What a great pleasure it’s been to work on this album with these amazing artists! It was kind of funny… We had been working on the songs remotely for several months before I finally heard all of us singing together at the same time. The first time I brought the faders up, I knew we had the magic!“
Nick adds: “I’ve known and worked with Neal for over 30 years and I’ve been a big fan of Ross and the music he makes for a long time. I felt confident right away that this would be a fun project to be a part of. I was so right.”
Ross comments: “Receiving ‘The Call’ from Neal to participate in this project was somewhat of a prayer answered… As a long time fan of their work, I’ve been singing along to Neal’s & Nick’s records for years, so it felt really natural for my voice to slot right in.”
The tracks took shape with the musicians recording all of the music and vocals separately, yet the eclectic performances burst with the energy and excitement of the collaboration. Acoustic anthems, charged rockers and sensitive ballads are all part of the mix, and the unique blend of Ross, Neal and Nick’s voices and styles have created an album in which you will encounter these musicians in a way you’ve never heard before.
Norwegian Rock outfit LEPROUS are releasing their 7th studio album “Aphelion” next week, on August 27th, 2021 worldwide via InsideOutMusic.
In order to further promote “Aphelion”, LEPROUS have announced a special entire album preview concert livestream, which will take place on Wednesday 25th of August at Notodden Theater in Norway. LEPROUS will actually be performing two full “Aphelion” shows, suitable for different time zones: The 1st live stream starts at 7 PM CEST (EU Time Zone) and the 2nd live stream starts at 7 PM EDT (US Time Zone).
Following up on 2019’s highly acclaimed “Pitfalls” album, LEPROUS recorded “Aphelion” throughout the last year at three different studios: Ghost Ward Studios in Sweden, Ocean Sound Recordings in Norway and Cederberg Studios in Norway. The album was once again mixed by Adam Noble (Placebo, Biffy Clyro, Nothing But Thieves, etc.), mastered by Robin Schmidt (The 1975, Placebo, The Gaslight Anthem, etc.) and its front cover artwork was designed by Elena Sihida, based on photography by Øystein Aspelund.
The album’s track-listing reads as follows:
LEPROUS – “Aphelion” 1. Running Low 2. Out Of Here 3. Silhouette 4. All The Moments 5. Have You Ever? 6. The Silent Revelation 7. The Shadow Side 8. On Hold 9. Castaway Angels 10. Nighttime Disguise
Next to the Jewelcase CD and Digital Album versions, “Aphelion” will also be available as limited edition Mediabook CD (with expanded booklet) and as Gatefold 2LP+CD with two bonus tracks: 11. A Prophecy To Trust and 12. Acquired Taste (Live 2021).
The album’s 180g 2LP vinyl version, which comes in Gatefold packaging and with the entire album on CD as bonus, is available in the following variants and limited editions:
Black 2LP+CD – Unlimited Ultra Clear 2LP+CD – 500x copies via IOM Webshop & CM Distro Bright Gold 2LP+CD – 200x copies via JPC Transparent Light Blue 2LP+CD – 200x copies via EMP Creamy White 2LP+CD – 400x copies via O-Merch Deep Blood Red 2LP+CD – 200x copies via Band
LEPROUS line-up: Robin Ognedal – guitars Tor Oddmund Suhrke – guitars Baard Kolstad – drums Einar Solberg – vocals/keys Simen Børven – bass
Nad Sylvan’s latest solo album, Spiritus Mundi, is one of the finest records released thus far in 2021, and I expect it to be one of the top albums of the year come December. Sylvan brought his vampirate trilogy to a close with 2019’s The Regal Bastard. Spiritus Mundi, which is Latin for “spirit of the world,” departs from the more classic prog sound on his previous three albums, but it hasn’t quite set sail for new genres. Rather it explores different musical territories, including classical, folk, acoustic, and rock, all befitting the beautiful poetry of William Butler Yeats which serve as the lyrics. The musical elements from his previous albums are all here, but they are interpreted in a different way. In an interview with Progarchy’s very own Rick Krueger, Nad expands upon the development of the record and his collaboration with Vermont-based musician Andrew Laitres, so I’ll direct you to that for more info about how the album came to be.
As it should be, Nad’s voice is the centerpiece on the record. All of the musical elements serve to frame his voice and the lyrics, bringing the poems to life through varying sounds. The baroque elements found on Nad’s vampirate trilogy pop up now and again, such as on “Cap and Bells” and “The Realists,” which I think adds a flavor that is uniquely Sylvan. Laitres also provides some lead and backing vocals, which adds some variety.
Musically the album is more open and relaxed than Sylvan’s previous records. It doesn’t have the heavier rock moments that those albums had, but the lyrics don’t call for it. Nad plays most of the keyboards, as well as some of the acoustic, electric, and bass guitars, and the orchestration. Jonas Reingold and Tony Levin also appear on bass, along with Steve Hackett on the 12 string. The Flower Kings’ Mirkko De Maio appears on drums. There are a few other guests too, but this should give you a sample of what to expect. It seems fitting that Nad, who’s become well-known for his work with Steve Hackett’s touring band, releases this sort of more acoustic and classically inspired record soon after Hackett released a beautiful acoustic album, Under a Mediterranean Sky.
I’ll readily admit I’m frequently skeptical when an artist says they’re going in a new direction on their next album. While I didn’t have particular reservations about this album going into it, I was admittedly curious about what that different sound might be. I didn’t expect him to move into some sort of techno-pop trash like Steven Wilson, and thankfully he didn’t. Instead he leaned more heavily into the folk and classical elements that already existed in his music. At times the music is reminiscent of Big Big Train, and at other times I hear bits that remind me of Jethro Tull. The rock is still there though, with a fantastic bass line and slide guitar on “The Fisherman.”
Spiritus Mundi is a well-rounded album that offers a breath of fresh air in a very dark time in our world. Perhaps that is fitting since many of Yeats’ poems offered a similar freshness to the broken and hurting world of the early twentieth century. Nad Sylvan may have taken an unusual path to rock stardom in his 50s and early 60s, but that seems to have brought a maturity to the music he makes. This album is well-crafted, and it is both a fitting tribute to Yeats’ poetry and a wonderful introduction of that poetry to new audiences a century after it was written.
Sylvan is one of the most creative people working under the broad umbrella of progressive rock today. He seems to get better with each passing record. I only hope he gets the chance to tour his own music someday. Check out Spiritus Mundi along with his other solo albums. You won’t be disappointed.
The Flower Kings – Islands – Inside Out Music, October 30, 2020 Tracks: CD 1 – 1. Racing With Blinders On (4:24), 2. From The Ground (4:02), 3. Black Swan (5:53), 4. Morning News (4:01) 5. Broken (6:38) 6. Goodbye Outrage (2:19), 7. Journeyman (1:43), 8. Tangerine (3:51), 9. Solaris (9:10), 10. Heart Of The Valley (4:18), 11. Man In A Two Peace Suit (3:21) CD 2 – 1. All I Need Is Love (5:48), 2. A New Species (5:45), 3. Northern Lights (5:43), 4. Hidden Angles (0:50), 5. Serpentine (3:52), 6. Looking For Answers (4:30), 7. Telescope (4:41), 8. Fool’s Gold (3:11), 9. Between Hope & Fear (4:29), 10. Islands (4:12)
In an effort to find some sort of silver lining in this ridiculously crappy year, I’ll point out that there have been a lot of great releases in the progressive rock world in 2020. The Flower Kings’ upcoming album, Islands, probably wouldn’t have been released this year if the year had unfolded as normal. With many countries in lockdown and bands unable to tour, numerous musicians have found themselves with, as Styx once put it, too much time on their hands.
Multinational band The Flower Kings chose to make the best of their extra free time and use the Internet to their advantage, recording their new album from homes in Sweden, Austria, California, Denmark, and Italy. Fittingly, the album emphasizes the many forms of isolation we experience in 2020 – beyond just the physical. Thus the title Islands.
I’m not an expert on The Flower Kings’ discography, but I generally like their music and appreciate the profound impact they have had on the rebirth of classic progressive rock starting in the 1990s. I didn’t particularly enjoy last year’s Waiting for Miracles. It was a little too political for my taste. The artwork alone was a bit obnoxious – an elephant standing on a house of cards while being hypnotized and surrounded by a bunch of oranges… that’s about as subtle as a political cartoon.
Roger Dean’s artwork for Islands, on the other hand, is fantastic. It’s too bad he hasn’t been doing their artwork all along, because it really fits their music. The lyrics “Upside down between earth and sky” from the track “Between Hope & Fear” are particularly reflected in the album art. Islands in particular has a lot of nods to Yes, which has probably always been in their music. Jonas Reingold’s bass stands out to me as being particularly Yes-like on this record.
The Tangent, Auto Reconnaissance, Inside Out Muisc, Release date: August 21, 2020
Tracks: Life On Hold (5:31), Jinxed In Jersey (15:57), Under Your Spell (5:45), The Tower Of Babel (4:36), Lie Back & Think Of England (28:16), The Midas Touch (5:55), Proxima (Bonus Track) (12:27)
The Band: Andy Tillison (vocals, keys), Jonas Reingold (bass), Luke Machin (guitar), Theo Travis (saxophone, flute), Steve Roberts (drums), and artwork by Ed Unitsky
Last Saturday (August 15, 2020) I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with the brilliant Andy Tillison about his latest album from The Tangent: Auto Reconnaissance. A truly outstanding album, it is my favorite Tangent album since 2015’s A Spark in the Aether (which was my album of the year that year). Lyrically and musically this albums stuns.
I won’t bog you down with a long review here, but you’ll be hooked from the very first notes. Tillison’s combination of storytelling is at its prime on “Jinxed in Jersey,” and his cultural critique is in fine form on “Lie Back and Think of England.” The passion in his voice is palpable – a direct consequence of the unique writing style he adopted beginning with 2013’s masterpiece Le Sacre du Travail. Andy and I talked about that very thing at length in the latter half of the interview. As he says below, this album is much more philosophical than the last two. That is expertly displayed on “Tower of Babel,” where Tillison takes the technocracy head on.
The music is diverse, with a heavy jazz theme throughout. The classic prog sound that the band has curated over the years is everywhere – Auto Reconnaissance sounds like a Tangent album. The saxophone and flute from Theo Travis add to that seventies Tull vibe, but Luke Machin’s crunching guitars bring the rock. He also brings the soul when he needs to. I can’t recommend this album enough. It’s absolutely breathtaking.
After a few pleasantries (which I didn’t include in the transcript but left in the audio), we dug right into the album. The interview is pretty wide ranging covering the recording process, the overall concept, a deep dive on a couple tracks (“Jinxed in Jersey” and “Tower of Babel”), some philosophical musings on America, Britain, technology, television, etc., and a detailed look at Tillison’s writing process. We also talked a bit about the overall history of the band and Tillison’s own background with music and why he originally wanted to create The Tangent.
Bryan: So tell me a little bit about Auto Reconnaissance and the background of the album and where the ideas for it grew out of.
Andy: Well the background of – this album was recorded before the word coronavirus entered my life. When I say recorded – it was written before that. We were just hearing the news coming out of China at the beginning of the year. We were recording parts of it when we were together, so I was able to record the drums here with Steve, and Theo came here, which basically means that all the keyboards, all the vocals, the drums, and all the saxophones and flutes were recorded actually in this room on the microphone I’m talking to you with for the most part. That was kind of nice to be able to do, and just after that we started picking up the fact that there may be lockdowns and things. But in any case, Jonas Reingold was going to play all his bass parts in Austria anyway because he was about to set off on the Steve Hackett world tour. Luke was going to do his parts at his house anyways because he’s got his own studio there, all his guitar amps are there. It would seem pointless dragging them all the way up to Yorkshire. We recorded it in our normal way, in fact slightly more together this time than any time in the past. It would be us, you know – the lockdown comes along and everybody has to find new ways to work and we find a way of actually doing it together, which was a bit bizarre.
The background to the actual record – it was made in a fractious time in England. The end of the final debates on Brexit as three years of arguing came to a close. Very depressing times when England was busy shouting at itself. Signs of a bad debate, much in the same way as I guess there’s a big fight between the Republicans and the Democrats over on your side of the water. You know, I wanted something that reflected that, but I didn’t want something to be miserable, so I wanted to make an album that – I think it was about really looking at the problems that we were in but having a bright light visible at the end of the tunnel that we were in at the time. I think that’s what I was trying to do with this record. That’s why the title is Auto Reconnaissance, which means looking at yourself. That involves everybody looking at themselves – whole countries looking at themselves and working out our place in the world really. I think that’s what the focus of the album was, yeah.
Pain of Salvation, Panther, Inside Out Music, August 28, 2020.
Tracks: 1. Accelerator (05:31), 2. Unfuture (06:46), 3. Restless Boy (03:34), 4. Wait (07:04), 5. Keen to a Fault (06:01), 6. Fur (01:34), 7. Panther (04:11), 8. Species (05:18), 9. Icon (13:30)
Members: Daniel Gildenlöw – lead vocals and lots of stuff; Johan Hallgren – guitar and vocals; Léo Margarit – drums and vocals; Daniel Karlsson – keyboards, guitars, and vocals; Gustaf Hielm – bass and vocals
Apparently I’m about two and a half decades late to the Pain of Salvation game. Better late than never, I suppose. I know I’ve listened to some of their more recent work when it came out, but at the time it didn’t grab me. Panther grabbed me, and now listening to a bit of their back catalog I’m starting to get it. Pain of Salvation have their own unique corner of the progressive metal market. No one else sounds quite like they do, at least on this new album. Pain of Salvation is just more proof that Scandinavia has the best bands.
Panther deals with tensions between those who fit into society and those who don’t. As someone who probably fits with the latter (and I imagine many progressive rock fans and musicians also would), the overarching concept certainly appeals. There are also dystopic overtones throughout, especially on “Unfuture.”
Welcome to the new world… a better and improved world for our mankind. – “Unfuture”
On the concept, Daniel Gildenlöw comments, “Because we live in a time where we’re more aware of people not fitting the norm and we’re doing everything we can as a society to acknowledge all of these individuals, but at the same time, they’re more disowned than ever, more medicated than ever. The album is painting pictures of a world, I guess. If this was a movie it would be scenes from a city. It’s set in one city, and it’s populated by dogs and the panthers, the so-called normal people and the spectrum people. That’s the setting for the entire album.”
Conceptually this is an album that will stand the test of time. It deals with timeless issues, in a similar way to Steven Wilson’s lyrics from both his Porcupine Tree and solo careers.
Haken, Virus, Inside Out Music, 2020 Tracks: 1. Prosthetic (05:58) 2. Invasion (06:40) 3. Carousel (10:30) 4. The Strain (05:35) 5. Canary Yellow (04:10) 6. Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower (03:59) 7. Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment (03:38) 8. Messiah Complex iii: Marigold (02:25) 9. Messiah Complex iv: The Sect (02:02) 10. Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex (04:51) 11. Only Stars (02:05)
I originally planned on writing about Haken’s new album, Virus, months ago, but then the release date was delayed by the actual virus. It kept getting pushed further and further back, and then real life got in the way and here we are a day before official release. Excuses excuses.
I’ll admit this one took a few listens to sink in for me, but looking back I think I can say that about all of Haken’s albums. There is so much depth to their music and lyrics that it always takes a few listens just to scratch the surface. I’ve found it also takes multiple kinds of listens to help it sink in. There’s the cursory playing over the stereo, there’s the blasting it in the car with the windows down, and (most importantly) the headphones. An album has to be good with the third method to be worthy of the second. Virus is worthy.
Hardly breaking stride, Inside Out Music ramps up their summer schedule with a fistful of new releases (some of which had to be rescheduled due to manufacturing delays). Unless otherwise noted, links go to CD versions of these upcoming albums available at Burning Shed; LP and download editions will also be available.
Pain of Salvation, Panther (August 28). Two years in the making, the latest installment of prog metal plus from Daniel Gildenlow and company.
The Tangent, Auto Reconaissance (August 21) From the ever-fertile mind and fingers of Andy Tillison and his cohorts: jazz, humor, narrative, modern R&B, pop, funk/soul, and a 28-minute epic about England.
This just in from the fine folks over at Inside Out Music:
FROST* – announce release of “Others – EP” on June 5, 2020
With FROST*’s latest album, “Falling Satellites”, dating back to 2016, it was about time mastermind Jem Godfrey teamed up with Nathan King and John Mitchell to continue forging daring and dynamic progressive music.
Completed already back in 2019, FROST* now announce the release of the stunning 32 minutes long “Others – EP”. Jem Godfrey states: “Others” is a 6 track EP containing 6 songs that were written at the time of the “Falling Satellites” album. Initially the idea was that “Falling Satellites” would be a double album, but it felt more focused and concise as a single album by the time we’d finished making it, so these half completed songs were put to one side. Now finished and mixed, they are ready to see the light of day!”
The EP will be released digitally on June 5, 2020 and will be released as part of the limited “13 Winters” anthology-artbook physically later this year.
A first track from the “Others – EP” will be released on May 22!
The track-list is below:
3. Exhibit A
Furthermore, FROST* are putting finishing touches to their highly anticipated new studio album which is tentatively scheduled for a September release through InsideOutMusic.
Progressive rockers Haken are excited to reveal their new studio album ‘Virus’, the follow-up to 2018’s acclaimed album ‘Vector’, will be released June 5th, 2020. By way of introduction, the band have recorded a special video message to give some background to the record: https://youtu.be/_XMWVUQ93io
Today also sees the launch of the album’s first single and opening track ‘Prosthetic’, with a video directed by Vicente Cordero. Watch & listen to this punchy opening salvo here: https://youtu.be/4EmbYo65Pbs
The band comments: “Prosthetic was the first song we completed during the ‘Virus’ writing sessions and we always felt it would be the perfect opener for the album. It’s a very guitar heavy track with its roots in 80s thrash riffing, but with the unconventional rhythmic twists and turns we often like to explore in Haken. We sadly never had a Jeff Hanneman and Robert Fripp collaboration, but this song at least draws on inspiration from them both!
Lyrically the song is a bridge between our two albums Vector and Virus. The message was brilliantly brought to life by video director Vicente Cordero, who also beautifully captured the live energy of the band in a way that both enhances the song, and perfectly sets the scene for what’s to come.”
Since releasing ‘Vector’ in October 2018, Haken have completed headline tours the world over, played sold-out shows across Europe and North America as support for Devin Townsend and picked up a Prog award for their efforts too! All the while, they have been quietly, secretly working on the follow-up album, entitled ‘Virus’.
Drummer Ray Hearne reveals, “since releasing ‘The Mountain’ in 2013, one question has been asked of us time and time again, ‘who is the Cockroach King?’. This is something we were interested in exploring more deeply too, so we essentially did that through our music; elaborating and expanding upon the intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical themes of that song. The end result is in an arc which spans across two albums: ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’”.
Once again, Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood has mixed what is perhaps the most eclectic Haken album to date, with the 7 tracks revealing hints of influences from multiple genres, all intertwined with Haken’s own recognisable sound. Guitarist Richard Henshall had this to say about the production, “Using Nolly again was a no-brainer, as we wanted the two albums to be sonically connected. But having just spent a day mixing with him in his studio, it’s obvious that this album will be an evolution of the ‘Vector’ sound. These songs seem to allow a lot more freedom of creativity with the production, so we’re excited to see where it leads”.
Longtime Haken collaborators, Blacklake, have designed the visuals and artwork and the album will be available as a Limited 2CD, Standard CD, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Virus
The track-listing is as follows:
4. The Strain
5. Canary Yellow
6. Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower
7. Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment
8. Messiah Complex iii: Marigold
9. Messiah Complex iv: The Sect
10. Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex
11. Only Stars
‘Virus’ is the culmination of a musical thought experiment which started with the ‘Vector’ writing sessions in 2017 and holds intriguing potential for the band’s future, as vocalist Ross Jennings explains, “whilst ‘Virus’ can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone work, it is thematically and conceptually linked with ‘Vector’, so our intention is to perform both albums back to back for a special performance someday”.