Cosmograf news

Progarchists, our friend and ally, Robin Armstrong, just announced a slight delay in the release of the new Cosmograf album, The Man Left in Space.  The album will now be released at the end of January 2013, giving Robin a bit of cushion in the final production.  Robin’s full post (complete with wonderful Rush references in the title) can be found here:

Also, Robin would like as many as possible to “like” Cosmograf on Facebook:

Of course, it should go with out stating that every Progarchist should own the first three Cosmograf albums as well as pre-order The Man Left in Space.  Sadly, the first one is very difficult to find, but let’s hope Robin reissues it.

Comograf’s music can best be described–if a comparison is necessary–as a cross between Ayreon and Big Big Train–theatric, eclectic, and totally prog.  Despite the comparison, Robin’s music is certainly original, and he is, no doubt, his own man and artist.  The new album will feature other Progarchy favorites, Greg Spawton and Nick D’Virgilio of Big Big Train and Matt Stevens of The Fierce and the Dead.  Additionally, our generation’s Phill Brown, Rob Aubrey, is helping with engineering.  And (yes, I’m incredibly proud of this), I have a few spoken lines on the album.  How cool is that?  Very.

One last treat: here’s the title track of the last release.  Enjoy.

Latest from Matt Stevens/Tangent

Photo © TheChaosEngineers. For information:

Great news this weekend.  First, from Matt Stevens:

Hello Brad

Hope you’re good. It’s been crazy here, a weird kind of post gigging come down. The Jazz Cafe gig was great fun, they treat you well there, blimey. Dressing rooms and beer!

I made a Spotify playlist with a “best of” my solo stuff. Is there any chance you can share it on your Facebook, Twitter, Groups or on any Forums you are a member of? This stuff makes a MASSIVE difference to obscure/DIY artists like me. The URL is:

I know Spotify is controversial but for me at the moment the important thing is to grow the audience for the music. Your help is really appreciated, thanks loads.

Also if anyone is voting in the Prog magazine reader awards at:

And fancies voting for for Fierce and The Dead or me it would be really appreciated 🙂 Exposure in these sort of polls really helps 🙂 Hopefully all the gigging this year has raised the profile a bit…

I’ve no more gigs booked now so the next months will probably be a bit quiet while we write and record  the new Fierce and The Dead record and plan my new solo record. Busy busy. The new Fierce And The Dead demos sound really good. They may be some sort of Pledge Music type pre-order. I’ll let you know.

Also we’re planning to tour outside the UK so please let us know where you’d like to see us. Thanks 🙂

Speak soon,

Matt Stevens


And, I had the great privilege of listening to about 75 minutes of Geoff Banks’s Prog Dog Radio Show this afternoon.  He announced some exciting news from The Tangent.  Pre-sales for their next album will be open beginning tomorrow afternoon.

On Friday, The Tangent released this on their Facebook page:

OK Folks the wait is over here is the very first chance to hear BRAND NEW work (in progress) from THE TANGENT. email to get updates and find out how you can be part of a pre-pre order campaign to support this project.

So much good coming out of the progressive rock community right now, it’s more than a bit overwhelming.  Of course, it’s the kind of overwhelming any lover of the genre craves.



Stabbing That Dead Horse a Second Time!

Thanks to The Chaos Engineers (at least we hope they don’t mind that we use this photo)

[N.B.  I asked my friend, Ian, to write this up.  He told me that he wasn’t “really a writer, but that he’d give it a go.”  As you can readily see, Ian is a spirited writer!  And, I’m very proud to have him among this group of insane progarchists.  And, for attentive readers, you know that we’ve posted another review of the tour here.  Thanks to Ian and Nick for such excellent insights.  And, yes, Matt Stevens, we obviously really love you.]


The Lexington, London Friday 2nd November 2012

I had never been to the Lexington before. 5 minutes walk from the centre of Islington, The Lexington is a bustling pub down the Pentonville Road. Downstairs is a pleasingly traditional bar selling an impressive selection of real ales and lagers, including some from the USA (Sierra Nevada Torpedo 7.3%!!!). Upstairs is a large room converted into a small music venue with a raised bar area looking down on a standing area and stage.

This was the last leg of the brief UK Tour featuring Trojan Horse, The Fierce and the Dead and headliners Knifeworld. Sponsored by Prog magazine but effectively funded by the bands themselves, the tour had reached as far north as Glasgow but was finishing in the home town of members of TFATD and Knifeworld.


To warm proceedings up, local 4 piece band Pigshackle, who have been around for 8-10 years, took to the stage. They treated us to a blend of dissonant, experimental music and, metal (in all its various guises) with an obvious King Crimson influence (which the band themselves quite happily admit).

One of my friends said they initially reminded him of free jazz group Last Exit (Bill Laswell, Sonny Sharrock etc) although he later retracted this, pointing out that Last Exit make a free form unstructured ‘noise’ whereas Pigshackle play a tightly disciplined ‘noise’. The set appeared to consist of one long track lasting about 30 minutes although as I discovered afterwards talking to the band, they, in fact, had played 4 tracks. The music was punctuated with occasional growling, shouting and screaming, some in death metal mode; discordant saxophone and frequent key and time signature changes for the lead guitarist, whose array of effects pedals was reminiscent of NASA Mission Control. Obviously skilled musicians, Pigshackle were tight and disciplined. The sound quality excellent with an emphasis on LOUD, so loud at times it was seriously chest-filling. The music pushes the boundaries and is challenging, at times gloomy with very few uplifting melodies but its worth having a listen to. Check out their recent album Unplug the Sun on Bandcamp.

Trojan Horse

Hailing from Salford, this 4 piece band, with their checked shirts and beards and looking like hillbillies from the Appalachians, conjured up music in my mind that would follow a similar path, i.e. with instruments including fiddle, harmonica and Jew’s harp. I was very wrong. Their website claims they have brought Yes, King Crimson and Tull ‘…kicking and screaming through the subsequent decades…’. So I was intrigued… Unfortunately things started badly with an amp being blown causing a hiatus lasting about 10 minutes with the other members of the band ‘filling in’ while the keyboard player franticly tried to get his keyboard working. Amusing banter from the band maintained a good atmosphere while the technical gremlins were sorted out but it obviously affected  their set.

Personally I find it difficult to define their music as Prog, well certainly not in the traditional sense. The opener ‘Fire’ from their recent EP sounded more reminiscent of classic indie-punk and at about 2 minutes long was the right length for this genre (pronk, prunk?). However the rest of the set was energetic and intelligent music, at times heavy, with even a touch of ‘funk’. A special mention for a bravura performance from the bass player (great posturing!). Check them out.

The Fierce and the Dead

Next up was Matt Steven’s (relatively) new vehicle, TFATD, a 4 piece band playing purely instrumental music. Matt is a gifted guitarist, totally in control of his instrument but like all the bands on view during the evening, all the band members were exceptional. TFATD have recently released a new EP ‘On VHS’ following their unusually titled album from 2011 ‘If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe’. Well, if it carries on like this they should achieve the recognition they deserve and be playing bigger venues than Morecambe (for the benefit of non-UK readers, Morecambe is a rather old-fashioned seaside resort in the north of England). The music is held together by strong bass-lines and very energetic drumming and is characterised by simple, ‘catchy’ melodies and riffs. At times Mogwai-esqe without the multi-layered guitars, the music was both heavy and light and I would say they occupy the post-rock side of the ‘Prog spectrum’. Played with plenty of creativity and enthusiasm the set finished far too quickly for my liking. Excellent stuff.


By the time Knifeworld took the stage the venue was almost full and there was an atmosphere of heightened expectancy… could they add the icing to the cake? Led by Kavus Torabi, known for his work with the Cardiacs, I’ve read that this is experimental, psychedelic, art-rock. An 8 piece band including saxophone(s), bassoon(!) and multiple backing singers. Torabi is a natural ‘rock star’, full of charisma, with his witty, intelligent remarks going down well with the crowd.  He is also an exceptionally gifted songwriter and guitarist. My first impression that the music was going to be different was the look in Kavus’s eyes that to me indicated a likeable form of mild insanity. The complexity of the arrangements were superbly handled on a crowded stage with a small PA system. It’s difficult to categorise or describe the music as it’s, in a sense, ‘genre-less’. The music is involving and journey-like, twisting and turning in different directions. The encore, a song from the new EP, ended up with the members of all four bands singing along which was a nice touch, as was Kavus’s dedication to Cardiacs front man Tim Smith. Highly recommended.

This gig attracted some peer group interest as spotted in the crowd were a number of prog ‘celebrities’ – Sel Balamir of Amplifier and John Mitchell of It Bites/Frost/Kino amongst them. Also enjoying the music was Steve Davis, snooker legend, long-time prog-rock fan and now radio presenter.

Overall what impressed me with this gig was not just the superb musicianship, variety, complexity and originality of the music but the real enthusiasm shown by all the bands. It’s great to see bands enjoying themselves, interacting with the audience and helping each other out (fixing technical problems,videoing each other and joining each other on stage). This attitude is infectious and creates a great atmosphere.

With bands like this around the state of modern prog is in good hands.

Ian Greatorex is a 50 yr old accountant with more time on his hands now both his children are (sort of) adults. He has a love for all types of music from classical through jazz to heavy rock and metal. 

Gig Review: Stabbing a Dead Horse, 30 October 2012

Last Tuesday evening, I took a short walk from my place of work to the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, that night’s venue for the Stabbing a Dead Horse tour. This unnerving title derives from the names of the tour’s participants: Trojan Horse, The Fierce & The Dead and Knifeworld. All three bands are leading lights of a vibrant ‘modern progressive’ movement here in the UK.

Trojan Horse opened proceedings with a cover of Neil Young’s Ohio before attacking their own material – four songs in total – with gusto. From the short and sweet staccato prog-punk of Fire from their latest EP through to the brooding 8-minute epic Mr Engels Says from their eponymous debut album, this was powerful, uncompromising stuff, played with an infectious manic energy by the Salford-based four-piece. I was particularly taken by the jerking and pirouetting of Lawrence Duke, who wielded his bass guitar as if it were an untamed beast, and by the mad dash of brother Eden through the audience during Mr Engels Says, as he attempted single-handedly to get us all singing the “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” lyric.

Then it was time for The Fierce & The Dead, who treated us to a masterclass in instrumental music drawn from their recent EP On VHS and from debut album If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe, with a new piece called Arc (Ark?) as a bonus. There is something very special about the aural landscapes created by this band. On the face of it, their sound is very sparse and modern, and yet somehow the solid groove created by Stu Marshall’s drums and Kev Feazey’s powerful bass combines with the hypnotic interplay of Steve Cleaton’s and Matt Stevens’ guitars to conjure beguilingly rich, intricate and expansive music. There was complete commitment on display here, and real showmanship, too – albeit of a less demonstrative kind than that of Trojan Horse. It was clear from TFATD’s interactions with the audience that they were having a blast, despite the low turn-out.

Headliners Knifeworld, performing as an eight-piece ensemble, brought the evening to a suitably exciting conclusion with a set drawing heavily on the terrific 2009 album Buried Alone: Tales Of Crushing Defeat and recent EP Clairvoyant Fortnight. It also featured an excellent new song, whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch.

Saxophones are relatively commonplace, but I’d hazard a guess that you don’t often see a rock band performing on stage with a bassoon. It’s a powerful symbol of just how unique Knifeworld are in their approach. I find it difficult to articulate just why I find them so interesting, but the fact that they are so gloriously unpredictable must have something to do with it. You never quite know where they are going with a song; heavy riffing can give way to a blast of Mellotron, then delicate vocal harmonies, then glockenspiel and sax, before guitar takes the reins again. A typical piece will feature unusual chord progressions and time signature changes galore. Any band trying to stuff that many ideas into a four- or five-minute tune is treading a fine line, but Knifeworld usually manage to stay the right side of it, leaving you exhilarated rather than exhausted.

The final verdict? A truly excellent night’s entertainment, and outstanding value for money at only £7 for the ticket. The only disappointment was that so few had shown up. I can only hope that the poor attendance doesn’t dissuade any of these bands from coming back to Leeds at some point in the future.

The Divine Ascension of The Fierce and the Dead


While the varied Progarchists have every right to be as critical as each so desires about music, books about music, art, etc. on this site (after all, a world that seeks conformity is already a dead and failing world), I will freely admit my profound if not also extreme fanboy love for several current acts: Big Big Train, Neal Morse, Gazpacho, The Reasoning, Cosmograf, Tin Spirits, The Flower Kings, The Pineapple Thief, and Arjen A. Luccasen.


I happily add older (meaning pre-1992) acts such as Rush, Talk Talk, and The Cure to this list.


Catching up quickly for me: IZZ, Coralspin, and Roswell Six.


But, certainly among the best of the best stands The Fierce and the Dead and every project (solo or otherwise) of Matt Stevens.  Prog magazine recently promoted Stevens as a future “prog god.”  I would declare him, happily, already a member of the pantheon.  But, of course, I remain a mere priest, having no power to change the inner workings of the heavens, only to declare who resides there!


I originally wrote the following article last May.  If I changed it,I would only more descriptives and more praise of Matt.  Happily, in the last several months, I’ve gotten to know Matt through correspondence a bit.  I can assure the readers of Progarchy that Matt is every bit as kind and witty as he is piercingly talented.


Rumors from good sources abound that The Fierce and the Dead might make their way to North America in 2013.  I can guarantee Matt, Kevin, Stuart, and Steve that Progarchy will do whatever it can to promote them to every North American possible.  The New World not only welcomes you, Matt, it beckons with fulsome praise.




About a year ago, Facebook recommended that I “like” a progressive rock band called “The Fierce and the Dead.”  Rarely do I follow such suggestions.  A few months ago, I liked “Jesus,” then I had to defriend him, as the relationship got awkward very quickly.  This Jesus kept claiming the words of St. Paul or St. James as his own, and I began to doubt this Jesus as a being of high moral character.  Where I teach, a student can plagiarize twice before being set adrift, permanently, from the school.  I actually gave this Jesus three chances.  Then, he was gone.


Well, anyway, you get the drift.


But, when FB asked me to “like” The Fierce and the Dead, I did so out of curiosity.  I immediately loved the name.  The Fierce and the Dead (TFATD) reminded me of my saying the Creed throughout my life: “He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead,” a personal favorite use of language.  I also thought of my hero Sam Gamgee, wielding the elven blade Sting against Shelob: no onslaught more fierce was ever seen, Tolkien wrote.  Two wonderful associations for me.  Whether the members of TFATD had either of these things in mind when coming up with the band name, I have no idea.  They might not have  a religious inkling in their blood.  They might not even like Sam Gamgee!


The picture associated with the group on FB was an image of a lone tree out in the plains.  It could’ve been taken anywhere near where I grew up.  It might be a hanging tree.  Regardless, at the moment I saw the picture, I’d assumed they were from my neck of the non-woods, somewhere near Kansas.  As it turned out, I was off by several 1,000 miles.


Most importantly, the song, “Part I,” was a song out of a dream.  Nineteen minutes of prog bliss–soaring, circling, hovering, and spacey guitars, moods and moods and moods, steady, hypnotic drumming, more moods, an aggressively supportive bass, and still more moodiness.  I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to the song over the past twelves months, but I’ve never grown tired of it, and it continues to reveal new things to me with each listen.


“Part I” is also just really inspiring.  From this first song, the listener knows this band is out for art–real art–not commercialized and superficial art, but true and good and beautiful art.


Needless to write, from the name to the music, I was immediately taken with TFATD, and I knew that relationship would continue no matter what the band released.


I then found out that the leader of the band, Matt Stevens, was not only equally talented and gifted on his own, but that–through FB and Twitter–he was an incredibly nice, intelligent, and witty guy.  Indeed, I’ve not only heard his playing, but I’ve seen his prose writing.  I’ve also read his commentaries on commerce, art, and the unholy alliances that often go on in the music world.  From everything I’ve seen, the man is terribly gifted!  He’s also loaded with integrity, and, as a father and husband, he worries about being able to support his family.  Yet, if I can be religious for a moment (not in the mocking way up above with FB Jesus), Matt Stevens was meant to be a guitarist and produce some of the most interesting art of our times.  Yes, he was MEANT to do this.


I now proudly own the first three solo albums Matt made: “Echo,” “Ghost,” and “Relic.”  Each is quite profound, variegated, and eccentric.


The first proper TFATD LP, “If it carries on like this. . .” is less spacey than the “Part 1,” but equally good.  The more I listen to it, the more I think this must be some kind of supergroup.  Imagine Robert Fripp and David Gilmour on guitar, Geddy Lee on bass, and Mike Joyce (from The Smiths) on drums.  That’s what “If it carries on. . .” seems to be.  A prog/post-New Wave supergroup, but without the pretensions of most supergroups.  Needless to write, these four members of TFATD–Matt Stevens, Kevin Feazy, Stuart Marshall, and Steve Cleaton–play as one very tight unit.


Brilliantly so.


In the last several months, TFATD released a new EP, “On VHS,” an excellent successor to their previous releases.  Just as punctuated in its energy, “On VHS” hits the listener with a meaningful intensity from the first listen.  While it’s obvious that these are the same guys who did everything else under the TFATD name, it’s equally obvious they want to keep their music moving in new directions.  In this sense, they are progressive at that noble term’s best.


As the name of the title of the opening track, Six Six Six.Six, suggests, the introduction is deceptively spacey.  For a few moments, the listener might well imagine a sequel to “Part I.”  That spacey-ness ends as quickly as it begins, and the song drives deep into the eternal; guitars, drums, and bass each drilling with a logical madness toward some uncertain and illogical end.  It is madness, but it is Ken Kesey-type of madness,  appreciated and respected and perhaps more real than what we see around us at any moment of our lives.


The second song, “Hawaii,” is nearly as driving as the first track.  While there’s an element of progressive surf music in this, the song is beautiful in its execution.  This seems the most King Crimsonish of the songs (not that it’s in any way derivative; it’s original.  Frankly, I can’t imagine Matt and gang doing anything that didn’t have meaning in and of itself).


The third song, “On VHS,” is probably my favorite of the EP (and, this is saying a lot, for all of the songs are excellent).  While there’s still a King Crimsonish feel on the guitar work, the rest of the band could be playing a really great Smith’s instrumental.  Indeed, the whole song feels a bit like a progressive version of a post-New Wave song by the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen or Simple Minds (before they went bad).


The final original song, “Part 3” is the longest on the LP.  Grumbling bass becomes spacey and, at times, soaring guitar, awash in colors of sound.  The drums hold everything together, as the listener floats and drifts away before a real determination emerges about two minutes into the song.  As this point, I feel I could be enjoying a Tin Spirits song.  There’s an American Western kind of feel to the middle section, especially.  That is, I can envision Clint Eastwood or John Wayne slowly coming to the conclusion that justice must prevail.  At a bit past the midpoint of the song, justice now rages, and evil is being taken out.  The EP concludes with an immensely satisfying feeling of truth and goodness prevailing.


While I’m merely guessing, I would assume this final song is meant to be a sequel of some kind to “Part 1.” [And, yes, it is: Parts I, II, and III).


For those reading this review, I hope you’ll forgive me for the comparisons to other groups.  TFATD is definitely its own band, and I can’t imagine them any other way.  Their TFATD-ness is a huge part of what makes them lovable.  It’s also what make the listener (dare I say the fan?) want to support them in anyway possible.


Matt and Co., please keep fighting the good fight for art with meaning and integrity.  I’m already eagerly awaiting the followup.


The Fierce and the Dead forthcoming UK Tour

Prog guitarist extraordinaire Matt Stevens has sent out a nice thank you, request, and notice regarding the very quickly forthcoming U.K. tour.  Of course, all North American Progarchists are jealous, but we’re also very happy for our British brethren.  Matt, play your heart out, as you always do.

Hi Brad [Yes! A personal email from Matt!]

I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who shared the link and photo for the Fierce And The Dead/Knifeworld/Trojan Horse tour last week. Hundreds of you shared it!! Amazing 🙂 We really need this tour to work for us, financially it’s really difficult and we really hope to break even so we can continue to gig and make records. Word of mouth is so important and what you’ve done will make a big difference.

There is now an animated VIDEO promo featuring snooker legend and prog DJ Steve Davis again:

If you could share the video that would be amazing 🙂 If you can post it on your blogs, facebook, forums and twitter it will really help.  Everything counts at the moment, this is really make or break time for the band.

Thanks to everyone who came to the gigs this weekend – lots of you out and that’s really appreciated, lets hope that the same people come to the Fierce And The Dead tour 🙂

Here is the info for the tour:


Knifeworld, The Fierce And The Dead and Trojan Horse are to undertake a three way, week long tour of the UK in late October/Early November. We’re proud to say that the tour is sponsored by Prog Magazine, Rock-A-Rolla and Z-Vex Guitar FX.

Expect gnarled Northern experimentalism from Manchester four piece Trojan Horse. Acoustic loop wizard Matt Stevens ‘gone electric’ delivers angular and epic swathes of post- riffery with The Fierce And The Dead while eight-piece Knifeworld, fronted by Cardiacs and Guapo guitarist Kavus Torabi and including members of Chrome Hoof, deliver dense, soaring, kaleidoscopic prog.

Here’s the full letter:

Stabbing a Dead Horse Tour

ImageOne of our favorite proggers, Matt Stevens, posted this video today of his new tour, Stabbing a Dead Horse.  Great job putting the video together–it has a rather English flair to its humor.  Sadly, no North American branch of the tour–but, let’s hope soon.  Best to you Matt!!