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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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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Intelligent Music Project IV, Sorcery Inside, 2019

intelligent music project iv - sorcery insideIndeed album number 4 for the Intelligent Music Project.  All songs are written and produced by Milen Vrabevski and are dedicated to the searching mind. And when I tell you that this album involves musicians like Simon Phillips, John Payne, Joseph Williams and Carl Sentance, you might already have an idea about what you can expect.

Yes, the  music as made popular by Toto and Asia must be an inspiration for Milen. So in essence this is a melodic rock album. But make no mistake, the project caries its name with pride so expect more complexity within. All done with a class cast and executed to perfection. So the richness in ideas and arrangements will also appeal to people who like their progrock melodic.

The result is a very entertaining album, on many levels. On the surface it has lots of appealing melodies and fantastic playing. But when you dig a bit deeper you will notice the intricate arrangements used in the songs. In short, fans of the bands and music mentioned should check this one immediately as they will not be disappointed.

My only comment is that I would love to hear these ideas in a bit more longer songs. Most of this albums’ 12  tracks range 3 to 4 minutes and a couple of 5 to 7 minute songs could give way to even more exiting ideas. But that is just minor, this album is compact and every song packs a punch.

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Brighteye Brison, V, 2019

brighteye brison - vBrighteye Brison are a name I had heard of before, but this is the first time actually hearing their music. Well, and if I tell you that  there are 3 songs on this album, that clock in at almost 67 minutes, I think most of you (when not already familiar with the band) will know exactly what this is about. Yup, progressive rock it is.

I must confess I am usually not a big fan of lengthy tracks. Mostly because they often give me the feeling of a bunch of individual ideas being forced together,  “because long songs are so popular amongst the fans”.
Yet when they really flow, and transitions and time signature and arrangement changes are made in a way that I find logical, these songs can work.

So now the question is; how are these 3 songs delivering? Well, let me first say that I really like the multi-part vocals from the Swedish quintet. They sound influenced by bands like Gentle Giant, Yes, Kansas and the like. Also their sound, with a great balance between keyboards and guitars is really up my alley. Especially since the music is melodic and not unnecessary complicated.
Having said that; the first few spins did not convince me that all the tracks and parts flow in a natural way. At least to me.
Of course this type of music needs time and a lot of listening. So over time I might feel different.

Still, lots of good stuff to enjoy, and overall interesting enough to make me want to investigate previous releases.

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Rob Cottingham, Back Behind The Orchard Tree, 2019

rob cottingham - back behind the orchard treeEx  Touchstone and now Cairo frontman Rob Cottingham first surfaced with Behind The Orchard Tree in 2002, which was in essence the start of Touchstone. And this release is a new version of that album, an “itch that needed scratching”.
New in many ways: new programming of drums, bass and sequencers. The mighty John Mitchell on guitar and Rob’s daughter Kerry adding vocals, etc.

Not having heard the original, I cannot compare. For people familiar with Touchstone and or Cairo, this sounds familiar. In songwriting and of course because of Rob’s vocals. Also, when the female vocals share the spotlight, the comparison to his bands are even more evident.
Having said that, this is still an interesting album. The man knows how to write a tune… And having John Mitchell on board will always raise the bar. Even when the keys carry lots of the arrangements, the guitar maestro still manages to catch some light.
It turns out there have been a few changes to the songs too. One track was ditched in favour of adding an orchestral version of Hero. And a new song in the shape of Out Of Time was added. Completists might like to know 😉

A very enjoyable album that current fans will lap up. And people who like diverse and melodic progrock, should check this one.

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Euphoria Station, The Reverie Suite, 2019

Euphoria-Station---The-Reverie-SuiteIf you think the cover of this album hints a bit at Country or Americana music, you would not even be very wrong. But the funny thing is, it is basically a progressive rock album! Although the prominent use of acoustic guitar, as well as some harmonica, flute, banjo, mandolin and violin, adds that different flavour to the album.

The album is a concept based on the childhood life of singer Saskia. And with 9(!) additional musicians featured, it will not come as a surprise that this sophomore effort is as diverse as you’d expect.
The thrill of it however, is that this is a very enjoyable discovery. There are several excellent songs on the album, and for me no filler in sight. The way their influences and inspirations are used in a prog rock setting has taken me by surprise and I find myself enjoying the album over and over.
Key tracks for me are Reverie, On My Way and especially the epic Paradise Road. Great melodies, killer hooks and instrumental sections, dynamics used to perfection, etc. So even when Yes and Genesis are cited as inspirations, this is in no way an outdated memory trip. No, it is fresh, vibrant and authentic.

Incredible that this is an independent release. The 71 minutes and 12 racks fly by! Anyone with a love for quality music should at least give it a try.

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Ruphus, Ranshart, 1974

ruphus ranshartOf course this is not a 1974 CD, but the 2019 remaster of an album that is considered to be one of the best Norwegian prog albums ever.
Now the problem with such a claim is, that when you are not familiar with the original album, there will be no emotional ties to the album. And time is not always kind to such an album either.

Well, on to the album then. When listening to this, it is easy to hear why they were seen as the Norwegian counterpart to Yes. You hear similar polyphonic vocals, extended instrumental parts, a prominent bass, tempo changes and various solos. And of course long compositions with diverse arrangements.

So I have no doubts that people into the original will love it is now again available, even on vinyl. And it is clear why the album is held in such high regard. Both the songwriting as well as the playing are on par with their far more well known colleagues. So no problems there.
But it is clearly an album of it’s time, no matter how good the remastering was done. Yet when you consider how many prog addicts keep returning to the classics, that is not a bad thing either. This will sit effortlessly along all their beloved albums…

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