New LEAH Track: Sleeping Giant

Leah McHenry, Progarchy’s favorite maiden of metal, just released an absolutely killer new song from her upcoming album. If the rest of the album is this good, it’ll be absolutely brilliant. It’s super heavy, and the lyrics reflect the troubles of today in a very subtle and fantasy-inspired way. Check it out:

Celtic Convictions: The Lovely Metal of Leah McHenry

Leah, KINGS AND QUEENS (Innerwound Recordings, 2015).

Track listing: Arcadia; Save the World; Angel Fell; Enter the Highlands; In the Palm of Your Hand; Alpha et Omega; Heart of Poison; Hourglass; Palace of Dreams; This Present Darkness; The Crown; Remnant; There is No Farewell; Siuil a Run

Birzer rating: 9.55/10 

Lovely Leah.
Lovely Leah.


Leah McHenry is a diamond, but not in the rough. Indeed, her talents are perfectly shaped and polished, ready to appear alone or in a company of other gems. Whatever the setting, though, Leah will be the brightest in the room.

I’m not sure I could honestly call this piece a review in any journalistic or Brian Watson-sense of the term “review.” I count Leah among my friends, however much distances across North America might separate us, and I’m proud to include anything she does as progarchist. At a personal level, she and I share the same views on political, religious, cultural, and familial matters, and I’m deeply honored to know her.

That admitted, I think I can also state with some objectivity (as much as beauty allows an objective statement to be made about it) that Leah possesses one of the three best voices in modern music. Only David Longdon of Big Big Train and Susie Bogdanowicz rival her for a top position among the best three. This is not to state I don’t have a fond affection for other singers. After all, I love Geddy Lee’s voice, but I would never claim—even under the pretense of objectivity or perhaps even under torture—that he wields a “pretty” voice. Leah, David (well, handsome), and Susie do.

After justly-famed progarchist and classical philosopher, Time Lord, introduced me to the music of Leah in 2012, I quickly fell under the pull of her siren song (though, quite holy and post-Homeric pagan).  Her first album, OF EARTH AND ANGELS, really introduced me to metal. I’d heard some prog metal, but Rush was generally as heavy as my musical tastes had developed. Admittedly, I’m still trying to figure metal out, but I loved what Leah was doing with the genre in 2012. There was simply so much life in every note and every lyric. So much life. Life teeming with life. Life everywhere. And, on that first album, she revealed a real knowledge of Celtic and Scandinavian folk tunes and medieval wisdom. Her opening song, “Prisoner,” though lyrically about something altogether different than my interpretation here, sounded like she could be a true warrior princess leading her troops into a battle for all that is good and sacred.

Shortly after hearing her first album, I came across her Christmas EP, LET ALL MORTAL FLESH KEEP SILENCE. While there’s a long tradition of great artists dipping into this holiday genre, it always remains a risky venture. When taken seriously, Christmas songs live up to the immense gravitas of the birth of what Christians consider the messiah. Writing about the Word made Flesh is no easy task, and it should never be done for light or transient (or commercial) reasons. Mediocre Christmas songs just sound ridiculous. Leah’s metal take on the birth of Jesus has all the drama necessary to honor Mary’s son.  Thus, though I have no divine authority, I assume that Leah will not be spending eternity with the unbelievably tacky Dan Schutte or Marty Haugen.

It was Leah’s second EP, OTHERWORLD, that convinced me of her nearly divine status as an artist. Imagine if her fellow Canadian Sarah McLachlan hadn’t gone full-blown pop and more than a bit wacky after her brilliant first three albums. If you can imagine this, the path not taken by McLachlan, you have Leah and OTHERWORLD. As with everything Leah does, she sings and plays every single note with absolute attention to detail and, most importantly, with humbling conviction.

I’m still trying to understand the entire genre of metal (hence, the 9.55/10 rating), and Leah’s KINGS AND QUEENS is about as metal as I’ve ever heard. It’s far harder and more driving than anything she’s previously done. Much of it comes out of the huge sum of money she deservedly raised in a campaign leading up to the making of this second full-length album.

One could never accuse of Leah of lacking confidence, but KINGS AND QUEENS possesses even more confidence than the first several releases. She’s also fully embraced all things medieval, Celtic, and Scandinavian in this album. Indeed, KINGS AND QUEENS might very well serve as the soundtrack to the Viking invasion of Ireland. When Leah sings, the listener stands with Bran the Blessed, Arthur, and Leif Erikson. The listener also stands with Leah at the heart of a storm, though as an observer, not as a participant or victim. Indeed, the power of Leah’s voice and song writing is akin to some kind of classical force of nature, perhaps transcending all but the Fates.

As the title KINGS AND QUEENS suggests, Leah has entered fully upon a world of the past with her beautifully produced, dense, and textured music. The artist herself claims not to be a progger (not out of distaste, but, instead, as a patriot of pure, raw metal), but the album is very progressive. There’s a coherent, if not single, story going on throughout the album, and the themes of loyalty, betrayal, and duty leap out of every song.

I’ve listened to the entire thing through several times now. Each time I listen to it, I hear something new, and I think “I like this song best,” but it’s never the same track when I listen to the album the next time. Admittedly, if Leah sang the entirety of page 452 of the Oxford English Dictionary, I’d buy the cd and love it. Yes, she has that kind of voice.

And, as I’ve written before, and I’ll write again: given her tenacity, her talent, her voice, and her age, Leah McHenry is the future of rock. That she’s as beautiful and kind as she is talented doesn’t hurt, either.

Lovely Leah, Again

Leah, Metal Maid.
Leah, Metal Maid.

I finally received my copy of Leah’s extraordinary new album, KINGS AND QUEENS, along with a very nice t-shirt this past week.  It has taken me several listens to get what Leah is trying accomplish, and I’ll post a long and serious review sometime in the next week or two.  Her previous EP had simply punched right into the best of my soul, and I still listen to it weekly or so.  My entire family loves it.  It was a delicate and bardic affair.  KINGS AND QUEENS is something altogether different.  It’s much more metal, and no one would dare call it delicate.  As always, the three trademarks you’d expect from Leah are there: her outstanding voice (rivaled in the rock world only by David Longdon and Susie Bogdanowicz); her compositional confidence; and her sibylline lyrics.  It’s a Leah album, and, yet, it’s something quite special as well.

But, for now, I need to get ready for St. Augustine in one class and John Dickinson in another.

To order or visit Leah, go here.

Happy New Year with LEAH! @LEAHtheMusic


The first disc I listened to in 2015 was an advance copy of LEAH’s forthcoming Kings & Queens.

Wow, if this album is any indication, this is going to be a really great year!

Be sure to grab a copy of this imminently forthcoming disc. It’s got a terrific symphonic metal soundscape, marked with LEAH’s trademark Celtic flavor, providing the perfect musical backdrop to the metal maiden’s vocals, which have never sounded better.

Yes… let LEAH’s vocals envelop you like an ethereal veil…

There’s so much to enjoy here from “the heavy metal Enya.”

Tracks that are early favorites of mine are “In the Palm of Your Hands” and “Palace of Dreams.”

More anon…

Minstrel’s Ghost: Funds for Art Needed

Blake Carpenter, international man of mystery and, in at least one parallel earth, Mr. Malfoy.

One of my favorite bands, Minstrel’s Ghost, is launching a fund-raising campaign to finance their next album (writeup below).  In the Middle Ages and Early Modern period of western civilization, every great artist had a patron.  Such a system is long gone, but we know have the chance to offer such help in a democratic age.  We all know that major labels have one foot in the grave.  Such fundraising is the hope of excellence of art in this world.

So far, progarchy has encouraged the funding of Leah (success!) and Lifesigns (in process).  Let’s offer the same for Minstrel’s Ghost.

Here’s what I received from Blake (leader of MG)


Who is The Minstrel’s Ghost?

The Minstrel’s Ghost is a melodic rock/progressive band featuring Blake Carpenter (writer, singer, keyboards and guitars), Troy James Martin (bassist and singer), Mike Troupe (drummer and singer) and Jartse Tuominen (lead guitars). If you love Pink Floyd, The Alan Parsons Project, Asia, Saga and the like then you will love us too. We do not try to sound like anyone else but the influences can be heard in our music. From the jazzy drums and rippling bass to the fluid guitar leads, sweeping keyboard riffs and story telling vocals our music takes you on a journey from beginning to end.

What is this all about?

This campaign is to raise funds for our third album and a movie to accompany it. The album is a take on the life of Jack the Ripper, a kind of back story if you will. A little creative license applied and we see how difficult growing up in the late 19th century is for a young boy. The harsh realities of prostitution, brutality and shocking loss leave young Jack struggling to cope. How will he deal with it all? We are planning on making a silent film using the music from the album as the story teller.

This has been in the head of Blake, the writer of the album, for a long time. The vision of making a movie instead of a couple of videos to accompany an album came when he was looking through old Victorian images on the web and trying to put a story line together with pictures.  There is a story to be told here, this is about Jack but it could be about anyone who suffers hardship and tragedy at a young age. We all handle our pain in different ways and that, at least to some extent, defines us, no matter where or when we live.

Why we need you…..

Making this movie is a big deal for us! We are still a young band trying to make our way into a much larger family of melodic, progressive bands. We hope that this movie will help us reach more of those whom we know would love our music. Please know that what ever we do it will always be about the stories inside the music and giving you the opportunity to laugh or cry, smile or frown and take something away from the music and story that will help you through your day, week, or life.

What We Need & What You Get

We have some things already in place and are using the barter system to get portions of the production done but we still need some equipment and perhaps some licenses to use public areas for filming. This fundraiser is also for CD and DVD manufacture as well as artwork for the whole project.
We are looking for $15,000 to secure:

  • camera and lighting rentals
  • a video editing machine
  • any licenses we may need for filming in public places
  • any potential extras needed for the film such as wood, paint and other building materials for sets
  • paid actors (if we need to as most are included in the bartering)
  • feeding actors and crew
  • all artwork for the CD and DVD (not your typical insert, a full sized newspaper)
  • CD and DVD manufacturing
  • Photo shoot for the artwork
For your contribution you can get:
  • posters
  • t-shirts
  • Signed copies of both CD and DVD from all members of the band
  • your name in lights at the beginning or the end of the movie
  • and much more

If the goal is not reached, we will do what we can with the funds raised and work out other arrangements for the perks we are not able to fulfill. We will work with you personally on all substitute perks if it comes to that – but let’s make sure it doesn’t come to that!

Risks & Challenges

We have been down this road before, just like so many other bands and artists so we know all too well that things happen that can get in the way of a happy ending. We also know that we have you, our friends and fans to join us in jumping over any hurdles we may come across. That said, we will be sure to make this happens in some way, shape or form for everyone to enjoy.

Other Ways You Can Help

We know that some people just can’t contribute, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help:

SHARE, SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!!!!!!!!!! Tell your friends, use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and all the other outlets you can to let everyone know about this project. Don’t forget music forums you may be a member of, please, if you can, print up a few flyers and throw them up around town. Don’t forget that there are tools right here on this page that you can use to share this project and help it reach as many people as it can.

Don’t forget to sign up for the The Minstrel’s Chronicle our (almost) monthly newsletter

Lovely Leah, Metal Maid–GRATIS!

Our great friend, the extremely talented Leah McHenry, is offering all of her music for free at the moment.  Take advantage of this while you can.  She’s as talented as she is generous.  Enjoy.

Summer special!!!
Just enter “0.00” at the checkout!
This is for a limited time, so share and tell all your friends!!
>>>Enjoy the free music! CHEERS


The Sadly Decaying Orbit of Anathema: Distant Satellites Fails

[Review of Anathema, Distant Satellites (Kscope, 2014). Reviewed from digital files and without liner notes or lyrics.]

anathema-distant-satellitesNOT RECOMMENDED.

I would give much either to have the opportunity to write a different review or avoid writing a review of this album altogether. The latter is my usual M.O. when I don’t like something or when I think something is subpar. Though other progarchists would justly and properly disagree with me on this issue, I think it important to spend our time writing and thinking about beautiful things. Life is simply too short to waste on mud, muck, and decay, and art is too precious and rare to squander or abuse it.

Also, simply put, I’m not good at writing about things I don’t like. I would also guess that spending time with things that are poor or corrupt damage my soul (and yours) irreparably.

But, I can neither ignore the new Anathema nor write a positive review of it without being dishonest. Distant Satellites is not corrupt, but it is, for the band, sub par. I wish Anathema would have taken more time with the writing of this album or simply have taken time off for a rest. Or, perhaps, the band could have released just a few of the best songs as an EP rather than as a full-fledged album.  As an album, it can’t hold together.

A year ago, if someone had asked me to discuss the present state of rock music, I would have sung the praises of Big Big Train and The Tangent, correctly claiming that each band was reach so far and attaining so much that they were very close to becoming untouchable. 2014 wouldn’t change this assessment. BBT and The Tangent are not only at the very top of their game, they are at the very top of THE game. Outside of North American bands (I’m intentionally excluding Rush and Glass Hammer), I would have gladly said that Cosmograf and Anathema were so close to untouchable as to be nearly at the level of the top two. 2014, thus far, has drastically changed the prog landscape. Whereas Cosmograf has moved into the top three with its new masterpiece, Capacitor, Distant Satellites reveals a broken or, at best, wounded, decaying Anathema.

How different a year ago was. Looking at the trajectory of Anathema—from A Natural Disaster to Universal—I would have placed good money on the rise of the band. Well, not really, I think gambling is a waste of time and money. But, you get the idea. I mean, really, Universal has to be one of the best live albums of the rock era. In terms of intensity and significance, this was a band with everything. While I would not have rated the two lead vocalists of Anathema—Vincent Cavanaugh and Lee Douglas—at the level of, say, David Longdon, Susie Bogdanowicz, or Leah McHenry, they would be close.

As mentioned above, I really wish I could write a different review for the new album. I have now listened to Distant Satellites close to a dozen times in hopes of coming to love it. Every listen, though, only makes realize how poor it is compared to their previous releases. Not that it’s terrible. Overall, it’s ok, but it’s, unfortunately, not much better than ok. I find myself wanting to skip through almost every song. There are two exceptions to this. Track Four, “Ariel,” has to be one of the single best songs Anathema has ever written.

The second best song on the album, “Distant Satellites,” is fascinating, but not necessarily for the right reasons. I’m fairly sure that if I allowed 100 dedicated prog fans to listen to it for the first time without giving them a single piece of information about the track, 75 to 90 of them would claim it to be a never-before-recorded track from Radiohead’s Kid A sessions. Indeed, I won’t be totally surprised when my physical copy finally arrives from the UK, if the liner notes reveal that Thom Yorke actually wrote the track and sang lead vocals on it. It’s one thing to pay homage to an exemplar, it’s a very different thing to mimic them. I really don’t know what to make of all of this, or why Anathema decided to pursue the course it did.

I really wish I could proclaim Distant Satellites to be the finest work yet by Anathema. I would be lying, though.

If you’re an Anathema or Kscope completest, buy this. Otherwise, I simply can’t recommend it. Other than tracks 4 and 9 and, possibly, 10, it’s not worth the price. Purchasing it would be kind of like putting stock in the Skylab project a few days before it crashed into Australia.

Let’s all hope the band’s followup puts them back into orbit.

Here She Comes: April 5 Progarchy News

Just when I thought spring might have sprung in Michigan, vernal verities hit hard. Upon arising from my heavy slumbers, I have looked out the window to discover there’s a fresh layer of snow upon everything. Old Tom was right: April is the cruelest month.

Some great things happening in the world of music, especially as interests the citizens of progarchy. So, in no order discernable to me:

Bassett, contemplating immensity.

John Bassett, Integrity’s Minstrel, continues to receive nothing but excellent reviews for his solo album, Unearth.  Not surprisingly.

Mischievous progger, Andy Tillison.
Mischievous progger, Andy Tillison.

Andy Tillison reports the first version of the new The Tangent album is done and will be released early next year by Insideout Music.

Also, don’t forget that Andy is selling much of his excellent back catalogue through his online website.  To purchase, go here: [navigate through a couple of pages; it’s worth it]

Leah, Metal Maid.
Leah, Metal Maid.

Our own lovely metal maid, Leah McHenry, has just raised the full $25,000 of her Indiego campaign. And, even three days early of her goal. Congratulations to Leah! We’re extremely proud of her. And, of course, we’re looking forward to the followup to her spectacular Otherworld.

Mike Kershaw, Wakefield's progger.
Mike Kershaw, Wakefield’s progger.

The ever-interesting Mike Kershaw is about to release his next album.  We very much look forward to it as well.

Edited by everyone's favorite Master of Fate, Jerry Ewing.
Edited by everyone’s favorite Master of Fate, Jerry Ewing.

PROG magazine, edited by the incomparable Jerry Ewing, will now be distributed in physical form throughout North America.


The Black Vines, heavy rockers, from the Sheffield area of England, have just released their second album, Return of the Splendid Bastards. It’s some great, great rock. To download or purchase the physical CD, go here:

Dr. Rachel Cohen, lead singer of The Reasoning.  Photo by Tim Hall.
Dr. Rachel Cohen, lead singer of The Reasoning. Photo by Tim Hall.

The Reasoning is offering some really nice bundles at their online webstore:

You may also have noticed that our website has been updated. We have had a clear-out, done a major restructure and completely rebuilt the shop. Rob, our ivory tickler, has done a splendid job and we here at Comet HQ are extremely grateful to him. You will find the new shop stocked to the hilt with a bunch of wonderful new discounted “bundles” plus new individual items and, of course, the usual shop fair. There may even be some copies of CDs that have not been available for a very long time (wink, wink). Your shopping experience is now going to be quicker AND simpler. Win! Have a look at what’s available and treat yourself… because you’re worth it.

To check out the bundles, go here:

Lego Arjen.
Lego Arjen.

From a few hints offered, it appears that Arjen Lucassen is deep into his next project. His legions of fans can collectively sigh, “amen.”

Stunning album cover.  A progged version of Dolby's GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS.  Brilliant.
Stunning album cover. A progged version of Dolby’s GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS. Brilliant.

The new Cosmograf, Capacitor, is done, and from the trailer, it looks nothing short of spectacular. Indeed, when it comes to watching this video, I might have an addiction problem. “Hello, my name is Brad Birzer, and I’m a Cosmografaholic.” Righteously ominous.  To watch (and you should, repeatedly), go here:

New progarchy editor, Craig Breaden.
New progarchy editor, Craig Breaden.

I’m very happy to announce that within the quasi-anarchical structure of progarchy, Craig Breaden has achieved the rank of editor! This comes with a Vorpal Blade and an additional 17 hit points. Craig has been a close friend of mine since 1990, and he first introduced me to some of the greatest music of the late 1960s and 1970s, especially to much of the best rock not found in what’s typically called progressive or new wave. From Spooky Tooth to Richard Thompson to Newspaperflyhunting and everything in between, Craig throws himself into reviewing, always revealing equal depths of intellect, humanity, and grace in his articles. He is a real treasure in the world of music. He’s also, importantly, a professional sound archivist, as well as a devoted father and husband. He’s a hard guy not to love and respect.

The elusive Nemo Dre.
The elusive Nemo Dre.

Nemo Dre finally revealed to me his real name.


One of Suzanne Vega's best albums, Nine Objects of Desire.
One of Suzanne Vega’s best albums, Nine Objects of Desire.

Burning Shed is now selling Suzanne Vega’s music. This is very cool and speaks well of both Vega and Burning Shed.

One of the best albums of all time, The Colour of Spring.
One of the best albums of all time, The Colour of Spring.

Finally, it’s April 5, International Talk Talk Day.  Make sure you listen to your favorite Talk Talk album today to celebrate.