25 Yard Screamer, Natural Satellite, 2019

25 yard screamer - natural satelliteWhile I had promised myself to start writing shorter reviews to try to catch up a bit on all the albums waiting for their turn, this little ditty turned up.

And since at first play I thought it was rather pretentious, I was about to write a few lines and move on. But as this is a progressive rock band, that just did not feel right. Something to do with “taking the time to get into an album…”

The good news is; it does getter better after repeated play!  I read in the press info that the album is a combination of improvisations and one take performances with careful arrangements and playing. They’ve kept the sound rather sparse, which possibly contributes to the need of repeated play. But when you stick to the album, slowly it will reveal its magic to you.

Since this is a grower, I would not be surprised I will consider it a classic in a few years time. For now I think it is a damn good album that moves around a lot in various subgenres of progressive music and beyond.

Or as they say themselves: melody, beauty and aggression. And a bit of fun. Exactly!

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Dudley Taft, Simple Life, 2019

dudley taft - simple lifeSecond album from mister Taft to land in my player and, like the first one, I am liking what I hear!

This is another batch of blues infused rock that might not be something world shockingly new, but damn, are this tasty bits. And good that the man has a sense of humour too!

Opener Give Me A Song is a perfect introduction to the album. And the title track that follows too. I Can’t Live Without You has some twin guitars that would have made Thin Lizzy proud and on many other places, his bluesy strat licks add bits of magic to the already vibrant songs.

Yes, another album you should check if you like blues that rocks / rock with bluesy touches!

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Nicolas Meier World Group, Peaceful, 2019

nicolas meier world group - peacefulGuitarist Nicolas Meier has been featuring in many guises here on the blog. And where many of his contemporaries (on the familiar Moonjune label for instance) impress with improvisations (which do require a trained ear), Meier seems more at home in well thought out and arranged songs. The benefit? It is far easier to connect to his music!

Album Peaceful was released last year but as with a lot of albums, has silently been waiting on its turn.  Again this is an album one can play on many occasions. It is a joy for the casual listener because of the melodies and the obvious Eastern influences. And while I love that feel, I will always be impressed by the technical side too. Especially since here they are a means, and not a destination.

Another good one!

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Jolly, Family, 2019

jolly - familyAfter a rather lengthy break (the album title hints at one of the reasons behind that) the incredible Jolly are back with their 4th album.

And I don’t know about you, but their music always speaks to me. Whether it is a soft short piece like Who Will Remember, or a lengthy prog metal roller-coaster like Let Go, I feel at home with whatever they come up with. Guess some things are meant to be…

Anyway, if you are a regular follower of the blog, you will know that their previous output has all been discussed here and I like every single second of music. So welcome back guys, and please don’t take 6 years for the next one!

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The Gift, Changeling, 2019

The Gift - AntennaApparently the fourth album from this London-UK based band and the first to make it to my playlist. According to the press sheet, the band created more shorter and rockier songs for this album.

Lot’s of good things to say about this really. Yes a lot of songs rock, but melodies are never far away. Also a lot of diversity on offer, they do not shy away from calmer, more peaceful parts and arrangements either. Nor hide their progressive nature in songs like the 9 plus minutes of Changeling or album closer Closer.

The lead voice of Mike Morton needed a little getting used to for me, but overall I enjoyed listening!

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Introitus, Shadows, 2019

introitus - shadowsSince the review pile has become unacceptably long, I had to decide to start writing shorter reviews. I hope that with this (contemporary) change in process, I can finally catch up a bit and work much quicker through the backlog.

The first album presented this way is from 6 piece Swedish band Introitus. The album is called Shadows and I would like to tag it as a neo prog album with a female singer. There are some family relations in the band, with singer Anna being the wife of composer and keyboard player Mats Bender, and their son and daughter are active in the band too.

For me this is a solid prog release, with special mention to keyboards and guitars. The 7 melodic songs range from 4 to 13 minutes, keeping the total playing time just under an hour. The singing of Anna is not bad, but somehow just not my cup of tea. This is of course a matter of personal taste, so you might feel totally different about it.

Fans of modern prog should give it a listen and make up their own mind.

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Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband, Tor & Vale, 2019

wingfield husband - tor and valeGuitarist Mark Wingfield is no stranger to these pages. And while not everything he does suits me, several of his albums are a pleasure to hear. Sadly, this album with Gary Husband on piano is not one of them.

The reason for this is simple (at least for me); 3 of the 8 songs (together 39 of the 76 minutes of the CD) are spontaneous improvisations, recorded directly after they finished recording the other 5. And while there is no denying that these guys are very capable musicians, I am having a hard time connecting to this. Maybe I am currently not in the right set of mind or something. For me this is too abstract, too free of form and without structure.

So if that is something you do enjoy, be your own judge. I’ll take a rain check and play a more simple album…

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The Aristocrats, You Know What..?, 2019

he aristocrats - you know whatWhen some of the most technically gifted musicians on the planet form a band, that is both exciting as well as dangerous. And both for the same reason; what music will they come up with? Will it be sick technical overloaded stuff, or will they present us with great songs…

Well, in case of Govan Guthrie (guitar), Bryan Beller (bass) and Marco Minneman (drums), we do not need to worry! Everyone who is already familiar with them, knows what they are capable of. These guys have nothing to prove so just go about delivering real songs. That will also always showcase their incredible skills. Whoever wrote a song, together they make sure it is a song, and not one technical exercise after another.

And whatever style they choose to incorporate, they do it well and with an audible pleasure. So whether it is flamenco, blues, metal, prog, country, shred, rock, pop, you name it, they play it somewhere. And they can be gentle and modest too. Their level of amusement also goes beyond the musical, as the artwork shows they do not take themselves all too serious 😉

The result is a very entertaining instrumental album that keeps you interested along the ride. Along every time you play it. So for all the people who think only a vocal band can be worth listening to, these c(r)ats will prove you wrong. Brilliant.

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Magic Pie, Fragments Of The 5th Element, 2019

magic pie - fragments of the 5th elementAlbum number 5 for these Norwegian musicians. And 3 of the earlier albums you can find on these pages! And if you go look those up, you will find that not only they were the second band to get featured here, but so far I have loved everything they released!

And let me tell you upfront, nothing has changed in that respect. If you, like me, love melodic progrock with a bite and stellar playing, brought with a vibrancy and energy that is impossible to resist, you do not read on. Just go buy the thing!

Okay, if you are still here, you are either curious to read my thoughts, or just have too much time on your hands 😉 Whatever the case, I cannot stress enough how I love this band’s music. Always melodic, with loads of harmonies (2 lead singers and 3 additional vocalists), clever arrangements with songs / lyrics that do bring a smile on your face. And last but certainly not least, the musicians… For me Kim Stenberg is a player that can combine lightning fast shredding with above average melodic phrasing. But the whole band play tight and change style, tempo and metre in a heartbeat.
For the occasion they also recorded an epic track;  album closer The Hedonist clocks in at almost 23 minutes. And is still entertaining as hell.

Another winner then, kudos!

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Midnight Sun, Dark Tide Rising, 2019

midnight-sun---dark-tide-risingFrom the UK comes this debut album. Yes it is a debut and yes, I am aware the band name has been used before by a Swedish (I assume) band at the end of the previous century.
But while I do not recognize all members by name, one sure popped; lead singer Huw Lloyd-Jones. You might know him from Also Eden or his contribution to the track Glynyd from Cryptic Nature‘s Pandor album.
Anyway the album is promoted as bringing together a mix of metal and progressive rock with keyboard sound-scapes and melodic vocals. And you know what? That is actually accurate! Maybe we can call it an updated form of neo-prog…

So, Scheherazade opens with sequencing keyboards before the guitars kick in the door. Huw’s voice is very recognisable if you have heard him before. Somehow reminds me a bit of Abel Ganz I reckon. And the band gives him many platforms to shine. Be it metallic, proggy, laid back or furious, his characteristic tones lead the way.
The way the songs melt all their influences is quite interesting, especially since I feel they flow really well. Time spent on arranging this must be big. Great playing throughout the songs as well. And with some tracks clocking in at 8, 9 or even almost 11 minutes, those wanting epics are served too.

I do not want to present this as a “pleaser” album though. For me the band have indeed created an original sound that is very much worth checking out if you like progrock and are not afraid if the band wander into other territories. Very convincing!

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