AOR

"This is Magnums 9th live album and is a fitting reminder of just how good last year’s studio release ‘Escape from the Shadow Garden’ is.

$18.00
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AOR

"This second album from Issa could not come quick enough for my AOR loving ears.

$5.00
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"Retribution” is the new album from Sweden’s Nightingale, the intended one-off project that refuses to die. Established by musical multi-talent Dan Swanö almost 20 years ago, the band is proof that good music can take on a life of its own, often when the artist least expects it.

$13.00
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Category:
AOR

"Guitar legend Neal Schön has joined forces with bassist Marco Mendoza (Black Star Riders, Ted Nugent, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy) and drummer Deen Castronovo (Journey, Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Vai, Hardline) to create a unique body of work with jazz and blues-inspired virtuosic hard rock playing, entit

$15.00
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"Aria is the second collaboration of ASIA founder Geoff Downes and singer/bass player John Payne. On Aria, John Payne’s voice is more powerful than ever and every single track is a massive thunderclap. As a special feature the Aria Special Edition contains the video for the song Anytime.

$14.00
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For some this was the start of an era for others the end.  This took my hopes and dreams for a true progressive supergroup for the 80s and stomped them into dust.  Your mileage may vary.

$5.00
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  • I'm going to cut to the chase: if you are a fan of Fish-era Marillion...if Peter Gabriel's voice makes you spooge...then you need to own this disc.A Time Of Shadows is the second album from this Irish neo-prog band heavily influenced by vintage Marillion. Vocalist Liam Campbell is excellent and clearly from the Fish/Gabriel school. Good long tracks filled with melodies but still plenty of intricacies. Beautiful artwork from Ted Naismith rounds out a superb package. If the words "clutching-at-straws" gives you goosebumps you are a click away from musical nirvana. Highly recommended.
    $3.00
  • Its been quite a long time since we've heard from Magic Pie.  They went through lots of trials and tribulations getting this album finished but now its finally arrived.  If you are not familiar with this band here's the deal: Magic Pie are a Norwegian band with a retro 70s sound.  The music is a bit of a high wire act balancing the neo-prog sounds of The Flower Kings with the heavier elements of classic Uriah Heep.  They also seem to be the darlings of Rosfest having played there multiple times."It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since these proggers from Norway released their promising debut "Motions of Desire". At that time, their music struck me as an enthusiastic combination of classic prog and classic hard rock. (Think Deep Purple for the hard rock side of that equation.) At their best, they offered memorable passages and pieces that sounded like they very well could have been long lost recordings from many years ago. At their worst, they sometimes fell short of filling the big shoes of the legendary bands whose music they strove to emulate. That's actually not bad for a debut album from a new prog band. I found much to like and looked forward to hearing from them again in the future.Checking back in on them a decade later, I must say that I am very impressed with how they have developed and matured. No longer do I get the feeling that certain sections of songs are direct homages to any particular band from any one particular decade of prog's illustrious history. Their influences, while still very present and valid, are now more varied, including a greater percentage of modern reference points. More importantly, their influences are just that--merely influences rather than templates or even primary reference points.The sound quality on "King for a Day" is superb thanks in large part to the enlistment of sonic genius Rich Mouser (whose resume includes similar work for prominent contemporaries like Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and Dream Theater).Keyboardist Erling Hananger is an excellent addition to Magic Pie's recipe. His keyboard parts are expressive, dynamic and integral to the music. When appropriate, his leads seamlessly blend, harmonize, and work synergistically with electric guitar.The lyrics have a melodramatic and somewhat tragic flair this time around, but this is prog so you should be accustomed to the musical ride including a few tragic tales from time to time by now, right?OK ' so it's time for the "magic" question... A decade after their debut album, how has my impression of Magic Pie changed?On "King for a Day", I now hear a band which has found "its own voice", one that resonates confidently in the space somewhere between classic arena rock of yesteryear (on prog-steroids of course) and modern melodic prog of the 21st Century (like Spock's Beard and The Flower Kings). Add a few dashes of modern prog-metal to taste and you, my friend, have baked up a very nice confection indeed... MAGIC PIE!If you love modern prog anthems with big harmonies and 'sing along' choruses, give "King for a Day" a listen! I'm glad I did!" - ProgArchives
    $15.00
  • This was formerly known as the Full Power release.At the moment Big Big Train are one of the best prog bands going.  This English crew take some of the best elements of old school Genesis and their ilk and marry it with something very contemporary and relevant.  The band was started years ago by Greg Spawton and Andy Poole.  There were a variety of iterations of the band and as the years went on they got better and better.  If you don't know, their vocalist Dave Longdon was a finalist to replaced Phil Collins in Genesis.  Rutherford and Banks obviously made the wrong choice, going with Ray Wilson instead.  Longdon's vocals remind very much of Gabriela and Collins making the Genesis connection quite easy.  Further on the band added Nick D'Virgilio on drums.  These guys totally grok prog.The band's most recent work was epic in nature.  English Electric was released about six months apart as two separate releases.  Further to this, there were 4 additional tracks which were left off and just released as the Make Some Noise EP."Originally released as two separate albums in 2012 and 2013, the English Electric CD's were subsequently brought together as a limited edition (and now out of print) double album called English Electric Full Power, a release which included four additional songs and a revised track listing from the separate album versions.This new double album version of the English Electric CD's retains the extended track listing of the Full Power release and has been remastered by Rob Aubrey to ensure the songs benefit from even greater dynamic range. It is presented in a softpack with a 40 page booklet."
    $12.00
  • One of the great overlooked prog metal albums of the 90s made available again. This album with the odd name was only released in Japan by Toshiba-EMI in 1998. It was the debut album from this Swiss trio and featured the great Thomas Vikstrom on vocals. The music was keyboard driven, a bit off kilter and totally amazing. The band didn't release anything again until this year's Retrospective but the similarities are superficial. Retrospective is a great album but a bit more conventional. Cosmic Handball has a lot more personality. Its been remixed and remastered which can only help as the original production was a bit murky sounding. Highest recommendation.
    $5.00
  • THIS NORTHERN VIRGINIA BASED BAND is a three-piece at heart, musically rooted in the raw energy and rhythmic interplay of RUSH and KING’S X. Fans of dark, guitar-driven rock bands from ALICE IN CHAINS, DEFTONES to the contemporary metal riffing of LAMB OF GOD and PANTERA, will connect to the heavy core of IRIS DIVINE’s sound. Add to that progressive complexity and moody synths inspired by DREAM THEATER and PORCUPINE TREE, and a liberal dose of memorable hooks and melodies, to understand some elements of IRIS DIVINE’s sound. And yet, the band has a distinct identity, not quite sounding like any of the aforementioned bands, and with an emotional urgency that pulls subtly from alternative and other influences.KARMA SOWN IS A TRIUMPH OF A DEBUT ALBUM, immediate and memorable but revealing layers and depth upon repeated listens."Progressive metal is in a rough period right now. The old guard are either releasing sub-standard albums that only make it more obvious how far they have fallen, or they are drastically uncool with anyone who didn't become a fan when progressive metal was first being created. Progressive today tends to mean djent, a style that has sapped all the life and humanity out of music, turning metal into a math equation of time signatures, and not songs that anyone can actually remember. There was a time when progressive metal remembered the ultimate goal of music; to have listeners enjoy the songs so much they would return to them again and again. Today, progressive metal is mostly the sort of music that could pass for muzak, if you don't turn the volume up too loud.Iris Divine wants to change that. They set out with the mission of writing progressive metal that is intricate and challenging, but still produces the kind of songs that listeners who don't have an advanced degree can love and sing along to. It's a challenge, and it goes against the tide, but it's a desperately needed revolution if progressive metal is going to flourish anytime in the near future.I knew from hearing the pre-release track “A Suicide Aware” that Iris Divide was special, and the full album reinforces the point. “The Everlasting Sea” comes out of the gates with plenty of tricky riffing and unusual rhythms, but they lead into big melodies with strong hooks and vocals. Their progressive playing isn't meant for show, it's a tool used to set a tone that juxtaposes with the more melodic moments. Finding the proper balance between these elements is not easy, and many a band have failed miserably trying to do so, but Iris Divine doesn't. On their debut record, they show a skill some bands have spent their entire careers failing to learn.What I love most about the record is that it can be seen in many different lights. If you like straight-ahead metal, there is plenty of heavy riffing and pounding drumming here to keep you satisfied. If you like progressive music, these songs have twists and turns, and Rush-like keyboards, in enough quantity to match the djent crowd. And if you're a fan of old-school radio rock, the choruses in these songs will be music to your ears. Keeping all three of these in mind at the same time can be tricky, but it's worth the effort.For being a trio, “Karma Sown” is a massive sounding record. The production is flawless, big and clear, without ever sounding too polished. The heavy parts are heavy, the vocals are up front, and you would never believe this was a self-produced record that was crowd-funded. I can put it up against many, many of the big label releases, and it would win the fight.In fact, I can think of a dozen so-called progressive metal bands that should immediately hand over their label contracts to Iris Divine, because it's a crime that a band that is advancing progressive metal in the right direction doesn't have the backing of one of the labels. Not to name names, but this album would be bigger than half of the progressive metal released this year if it had the media push behind it.In case you haven't noticed, what I'm saying is that “Karma Sown” is a fantastic debut, and the future of progressive metal. Iris Divine isn't a Dream Theater clone, and they're not djent. What they have done is integrate all the strains of progressive metal into a singular sound, one that could set the standard moving forward. If every band sounded this good, progressive metal wouldn't need to be underground. “Karma Sown” is the best progressive metal album of the year, bar none." - Bloody Good Horror
    $13.00
  • Latest studio album from this outstanding band from Sweden.  The best thing about Beardfish is their ability to be contemporary but they blend in just enough old school sounds to appeal to the entrenched prog fan base.  The band never quite sounds retro yet they incorporate vintage keys and guitar sounds. Chalk this up to great songwriting. On their previous album, The Void, something went amiss and it didn't sit well with their fans.  The band had taken on a heavier edge touching on metal.  Well have no fear - the band has jettisoned all metal trappings and have returned to the sound of the earlier albums.  Swirls of organ and Mellotron are everywhere and the unmistakeable sound of the Rickenbacker bass will slam you in the gut.  Are you are fan of Anekdoten, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, or even The Flower Kings?  You need to hear this.With regards to the bizarre album title here is a clue from the band:“The comfort zone is the invisible protective suit of negative thinking, almost like an entity of itself. It’s been with you since birth: your parents and your teachers and your friends and your neighbours all teaching you the way the world works – this is how it is and will be and there’s nothing you can do about it. The negative vibe is like a voice living inside of you, a companion through life. With time you start to like that voice and the place it takes you to: your comfort zone. I’m so sick and tired of it and I want to address it and maybe in that way start to work my way out of it”+4626 Comfortzone comes with a bonus CD featuring 13 previously unreleased demo and outtake tracks spanning 2002-2008.BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • Edensong is a progressive rock quintet from New York City.  The band's self-released 2008 debut "The Fruit Fallen" was hailed as a "masterpiece" by critics, and helped to pave the way for live shows and notable festival appearances throughout North America.At over 70 minutes of new music, their 2016 followup, "Years in the Garden of Years" is even more ambitious than it's predecessor, and will be sure to appeal to fans of both classic progressive rock and metal.  The concept album features an extended song cycle on themes of time, each song a different scale and perspective.  The melodies are more memorable, the riffs more powerful, the flute playing more inventive and propulsive.  The songs prominently feature immersive new textures, from lush keyboard and orchestral arrangements to esoteric percussion from around the world, such as hang drum and Balinese gamelan.   "Years in the Garden of Years" is mastered with audiophile precision by Grammy winning engineer Bob Katz, and the CD release features stunning original cover art and booklet illustrations from beloved surrealist painter Dan May. 
    $13.00
  • Courting The Widow is the new solo album from Nad Sylvan.  Who?  Well you may know him from his original Genesis inspired group Unifaun.  No?  How about his work with Roine Stolt in Agents of Mercy?  Not ringing a bell still?? Well he's been touring the world with Steve Hackett for 2-3 years now. Nad Sylvan's vocals legitimately sound like a mix of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.  Hearing him sing Genesis style music or actual Genesis tunes with Steve Hackett is like hand in glove - its a natural fit. His new solo album is a conceptual work that fits squarely in the Genesis tradition.  Parts of have the feel of Wind And Wuthering and Trick Of The Tail.  The centerpiece of the album is a 22 minute track "To Turn The Other Side".  If this doesn't get the prog fires burning at home nothing will.  He's called in all his favors and put the album together with guests Steve Hackett, Roine Stolt, Nick Beggs, Jonas Reingold, Nic D'Virgilio, and Doane Perry.  They don't make them like this much any more.  Highly recommended.
    $13.00
  • Deluxe mediabook edition with one bonus track."This autumn seems to become a sophisticated season when it comes to progressive metal music. There have been already some quite exciting records that have been published; like the new album from Gazpacho and now there are two German prog bands coming with new albums too. Next to Vanden Plas it is Subsignal that offers a new journey through the world of sound."The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" is the cryptic title of the new long player which is the forth one of the the band that arose out of the ashes of Siege Even. Brain and soul behind the band are guitarist Markus Steffens and singer Arno Menses who started Subsignal as a project in 2007. Things developed very positively and what began as a project became a fix part of the German prog metal scene."The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" isn't build on a conceptual storyline. But there is a red thread through the various tracks on this long player. The overarching theme is about loss and parting.When it comes to the music Subsignal became harder again. The predecessor "Paraiso" was in general a bit softer with some tracks that have been close to AOR. The new album brings back heavier riffs. "Tempest" is a first indicator for this, underlined by songs like "Everything is Lost".But in the end it's not about heavier or softer when it comes to Subsignal's music. It's the band's lambent way of composing great songs that come with big melodies merged with a lot of emotional depth and thoughtfulness. "The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" is full of those attributes and it's the passion for details, that makes Subsignal's sound complex as well as approachable also for non-musicians.This long player is the soundtrack for an exciting journey through eleven new tracks from a band that combines technical capabilities with an outstanding sense for good songs. "The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" belongs to the highlights of 2015 and I would be surprised not finding back the album in some of the 2015 polls." - Markus' Heavy Music Blog 
    $18.00
  • "The Flower Kings have been performing their brand of symphonic rock since their formation in 1994. Roine Stolt is the "veteran cosmic rocker" who heads this formidable assault on modern prog. They and some of their peers have been responsible for both maintaining and expanding the fan base for modern progressive rock since the '90s.Although I have enjoyed some of their music over time, I have only slightly enjoyed most of their work. That changes with Desolation Rose. This is a masterpiece in modern prog and it will definitely compete for one of the top spots on my favorite albums of the year list.Last year, The Flower Kings returned after an almost 5 year hiatus. They released Banks of Eden in the summer of 2012 to a strong favorable reaction from fans and critics alike. I missed that one, but will go back and try to listen to it after hearing Desolation Rose. They celebrated their success with a tour of the world. This year the band hit the road again to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their label InsideOut Music with old friends, and label mates Neal Morse & Mike Portnoy. They kept the momentum going with a return to Fenix Studio in Sweden to start work on the recording of Desolation Rose.The band describes Desolation Rose, as a "live" recording made on reel to reel tape to bring back the feeling from analog recording. They also brought out some classic vintage keyboards, like a Hammond B3, Mellotron M 400, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog and a whole host of Tube amps. All to bring back the glorious past. They further describe Desolation Rose as: "Being somewhat of a political statement, the epic theme of Desolation Rose is a logical step in a time where perpetual war, famine, environmental threats, religious conflicts dominate the media and our minds. This is a time to wake up and the music on this album takes you on a journey where you are forced to question what the mainstream media feed us and to rethink your whole world view on all of the above. This is in many ways a typical Flower Kings album but we have also taken it into another realm where we do take chances and where you may struggle to get into the music - or the lyrics - but trust me when I say that you will be rewarded, as this may be our most involved, important and interesting album ever." (Roine Stolt).Ok, so… "on with the show…this is it"."Tower ONE" is an over 13 minute epic to start this album off in the right direction. Stolt's vocals opens with, "She'll walk me slowly through burning spear. She'll be my shelter no sign of fear. She'll walk me slowly through wholesome light. She'll be my shelter. She'll be my eye". Stolt describes "an observation by an angel who resides in a mysterious tower, looking down on the entire world's ongoing perpetual insanity, yet unable to reach out and help" (Flower King's Desolation Rose Press Release, 2013). The solid drums, dripping bass, lead electric guitars rock. The band gives you more than you may ever have dreamed of receiving on this epic opener. But for me it's the keyboards that truly shine the best on this track. "Don't we all shine on?" Well…yes definitely on this one.If you close your eyes and listen to "Sleeping Bones", you may actually visualize Rael emerging from the mist and rain on Broadway. And with all the wonderful string arrangements and soft mandolin, this one will definitely take you immediately back to some of the highlights from "The Lamb". But Stolt enters to provide a new direction, "We're the third from the sun. We're a long way from home. We're between land and sea. We are blessed and we're greed". He then proceeds to uncover the world's many ills as the deep bass, power Hammond, and punching drums march their cadence. A dark march into the current state of affairs delivered with powerful lyrics."Desolation Road" opens with limitless grand piano, yes the kind you may remember again from "The Lamb", and powerful slamming drums and stellar synths that create a spectacular grand opening. "Be sure to meet your enemies with open eyes. As you answer drums of war with a lullaby. Battlefields that come alive. You know you cannot hide. But here you know your fears…the man inside". "There are no glittering prizes." Yes, another powerful lyrical commentary on the state of affairs globally. The weeping lead electric guitar licks are perfect for the mood of the song. The keyboards, drums, bass and jams are excellent. Three tracks in and you know you're listening to a winner. Something you will play over again…many times.Well, when you open with excerpts of a speech from Richard Nixon, you know "White Tuxedos" is going to be full of political angst. "I respect your ideals. I want peace. Bring the boys home". Nice that they decided to go with images of Vietnam, for all of us old enough to remember the ravages of that war. No war or person personifies the evil politician more than Nixon and the unfortunate war he escalated only magnified that feeling globally for many. Modulated vocal delivery helps add swag to the powerful message. The music supports the power of this piece well. Dark and full of some excellent solo electric guitar, accompanied by solid bass, punching drums, and deep keys."The Resurrected Judas" is full of wonderful acoustic guitar and elegant keys after the opening explosion of drums and lead electric guitar. The softer transition welcomes you to this tale full of soft synth keys and great vocals. The lead electric guitar soloing adds dramatic flair. The dark tone keys and dripping bass help create a jam session full of piano and melody which at times take you back to Collins era Genesis with its Tony Banks keyboard romps. At over 8 minutes this track is full of imagery and cinematic music that will definitely entertain. I kept hearing echoes of the imagery in the lyrics and music from the song "Squonk", which is not a bad thing at all."Silent Masses" opens with bold keys and organ and what sounds like Jonas Reingold singing about factories again, "So you think you can rule all the fools. Staying cool when the walls coming down. Got the world on a string, but your bird cannot sing. All these men in the factory lines. And all the angels who fell from the skies. You tried to say hello, but they say goodbye", while some Beatles "And Your Bird Can Sing" chords fall like rain. "We are just the silent masses" becomes the refrain. The solid drums, bass, lead electric guitar and keyboards build as the drama continues on the second half of the track. Another solid song to add to the discography."Last Carnivore" opens with some dramatic flair from drums, bass, and lead electric guitar. The momentum continues to build excitement and mystery. "The nightmare becomes real. You have fallen from your tower". "Seven matches seven". The lead electric guitar solos accompanied by drums are powerful. The keys slide in to garnish the sound perfectly. The rhythm and melody of this track make it one of the best.With a title like "Dark Fascist Skies", you know it can't be good. The opening reminds me of Jethro Tull's A album classic "Black Sunday"; with its heavy keyboard and lead electric guitar assault. The ominous start forebodes multiple mellotron tones and a full on launch of power keyboards, bass, lead guitar and drums to the ears. This track is full of drama and ominous lyrics and sounds."Blood of Eden" is my second favorite track on the album. "We're the third from the sun. We're a beacon and a seventh wonder. We are green and we are growing. We are the one and eternal Mother". Its lyrics like that which will endear you immediately to this song. This is no way as powerful as Peter Gabriel's "Blood of Eden". And at times you can even here a bit of Jon Anderson in the high notes reached vocally. But still it is a solid track for this album."In "Silent Graveyards" we look for saviors" is repeated several times as launching guitars, and keys rocket this short song high.This is a keeper. If you are new to the Flower Kings, welcome to the party. You picked a good time to find them. If you are a fan this is a must buy." - Sea Of Tranquility
    $11.00
  • We have a special offer Tiles "Pretending2Run" t-shirt/2 CD bundle.  The shirt design is courtesy of the illustrious Hugh Syme.  The new Tiles album is a 2CD set in a digipak with a 28 page book.After an eight year absence, T I L E S returns with a vengeance by delivering the mesmerizing 2-CD magnum opus “Pretending to Run.”  Clocking in at over 96-minutes, “Pretending to Run” is an ambitious and richly crafted song cycle spinning the tale of a man blindsided and disillusioned by betrayal.Once again, T I L E S teamed up with producer Terry Brown – and with mastering by Grammy award winning engineer Peter Moore, “Pretending to Run” boasts a powerful and detailed sonic landscape.  Complementing the dramatic and multi-layered storyline is Hugh Syme’s striking and surreal imagery.  Featuring a lush 28-page full-color booklet, the design and packaging for “Pretending to Run” is an elaborate and stunning work of art.Lending their talents to “Pretending to Run” is an extraordinary collection of special guest musicians: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs), Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson Band), Mike Stern (Miles Davis), Kim Mitchell (Max Webster), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith), Max Portnoy (Next to None), Matthew Parmenter (Discipline), Mark Mikel (Pillbugs), Joe Deninzon, and other notable guests from the Detroit area… Destined to be on the radar of Prog fans everywhere, “Pretending to Run” is a distinctive  presentation framed in the grand traditions of progressive rock.  Clearly and unmistakably T I L E S, but infused with a more expansive sound as the guest artists propel the band into new directions sure to please fans old and new.Special guest performances by:Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs)Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson)Mike Stern (Miles Davis)Kim Mitchell (Max Webster)Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree)Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith)Max Portnoy (Next To None)Matthew Parmenter (Discipline)Mark Mikel (Pillbugs)Joe Deninzon (Stratospheerius)  
    $25.00
  • The Blu-ray features the new video for lead track ‘Drive Home’ along with the video for ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, both directed by Jess Cope. It also includes four tracks recorded live in Frankfurt during the recent tour. In addition, the Blu-ray features high resolution (96/24 stereo and 5.1 surround) audio recordings of two previously unreleased tracks, ‘The Birthday Party’ and an orchestral version of ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’. ’The Birthday Party’ was recorded in LA at the same sessions as the tracks that made up the album while the version of ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ is a new mix that strips the track back to just the orchestra and vocals.These tracks are also featured on the accompanying CD, along with the audio from the live tracks and an edit of ‘Drive Home’.
    $8.00
  • Since their first release in 1999, WOLVERINE has pushed outside the boundaries of metal and evolved through inventiveness and explorative ambition, now incorporating a wider spectrum of musical elements into their own progressive sound.Machina Viva is a natural evolution from their last album Communication Lost, inviting the listener into the melodic yet dark and moody world of WOLVERINE.  It is the band’s most dynamic album to date; from the 14-minute epic and powerful “The Bedlam Overture” and the dark electronic landscapes of “Machina”, to the naked and organic nature of “Pile of Ash” and “Sheds”. This is the next step in WOLVERINE’s explorations in the progressive field.Machina Viva was recorded and produced by WOLVERINE in Sweden during autumn and winter 2015/2016. The album was mixed at Spacelab Studio (Germany) by CHRISTIAN “MOSCHUS” MOOS (HAKEN, DELAIN), and mastered by Grammy Award winning audio engineer BOB KATZ.
    $13.00
  • "Beware! This is the first time that I have been able to review a full Haken album without any word limits or other punitive restrictions placed upon me. You have been warned…I’m going to lay my cards on the table right at the outset: Haken are one of my all-time favourite bands. Despite only being in existence for a relatively short period of time, right from their debut ‘Aquarius’ I have held them in high regard. It is a situation that has only strengthened over the years with each passing album and having had the chance to meet the band on several occasions, from interviewing the whole motley crew on their tour van at Progpower Europe in 2010 to friendly chats with various members at numerous gigs subsequently.Regardless of this however, Haken are the real deal. Yes, they are a cracking bunch of guys but crucially, they back it up with a superlative end product. Each member of Haken is a supremely talented individual with their chosen instrument(s) but together there is a real magic; an unquantifiable ‘x’ factor that leads to the creation of music that is almost peerless and jaw-droppingly good.And, on that note, let us delve into the world of ‘Affinity’.It took me quite a while to get into and appreciate ‘The Mountain’. It sounded different from what went before it; more grown-up and, ‘Cockroach King’ aside, more serious and introspective. However, in stark contrast to ‘The Mountain’, ‘Affinity’ captured my imagination right off the bat and has not failed to let go in the month or so that I’ve been listening to it. If anything, the more I listen, the better it gets.Weirdly enough, a small voice in my brain kept suggesting that it might be a good thing if ‘Affinity’ wasn’t as good an album. That way, I’d be able to tackle this review without the inevitable comments from readers about me being a fanboy and moaning that ‘you were always going to give it a high score’. But then I came to my senses.‘Affinity’ won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure. If you’re a fan of the first two albums and wanted a return to more of that sound and approach, you might be left slightly disappointed. If however, you’re open to listening to a band that refuses to tread the same path twice, a band that champions the true meaning of ‘progressive’ by trying new things whilst remaining loyal to their core principles, then ‘Affinity’ will probably have the same impact upon you as it has had on me.And what exactly is that impact? It is almost impossible to describe if I’m honest. ‘Affinity’ is an album that transcends the normal debates around whether it is good or not. Of course it is good, that almost goes without saying. I’m not a musician, so I am unable to dissect all of the technical intricacies that are present on this record. That’s not my style. Instead it’s the feelings that Haken evoke in their music that I feel the need to focus on as this is arguably the most powerful and intoxicating aspect of their incredible music.We all have them – bands that, as you listen, make you feel happy to be alive. Well, for me, Haken are one of the four or five bands on Earth that do just that.The album opens with the sampled sounds made by early computers atop a dark, cinematic soundscape that grows in intensity, building the sense of anticipation brilliantly and setting the foundations to the musical avenues to be explored within ‘Affinity’. Whilst ‘The Mountain’ was heavily influenced by the 1970s with the likes of Gentle Giant looming large within certain compositions, ‘Affinity’ takes its cue from the following decade. To be fair, this was fairly obvious after one look at the retro cover artwork and the most excellent teaser trailers released a few weeks ago. Again, the imagery might not appeal to everyone, but I really like the boldness and simplicity of the artwork that deliberately and unashamedly harks back to the analogue days of cassette tapes and vinyl.The opening instrumental segues seamlessly into ‘Initiate’, the first ‘proper’ track on the album and a barnstormer at that, a deceptively complex piece of music that acts as a real showcase for everything great about Haken in 2016. And as I listen, almost immediately, several things become clear. Firstly, ‘Affinity’ is blessed by a production and a mix courtesy of Jens Bogren (Fascination Street Studios) that is right out of the top drawer. The music sounds powerful yet with a clarity that allows every instrument to shine. Nothing is lost or overlooked and the results are simply stunning.Secondly, Ross Jennings’ vocals have taken another huge leap in the right direction. I was always one of those that took a lot of convincing over his delivery on the debut record particularly. However, he has pushed himself to the point that he is, without doubt a highly talented and accomplished vocalist with a unique, passionate delivery.Thirdly, the increase in atmospherics, of electronic sounds and textures courtesy of Diego Tejeida is also very pronounced from the outset. Not only does he create a very interesting sonic palette that weaves in and out of each composition, he injects a surprising amount of warmth to the music that could so easily have sounded cold and inaccessible.This in turn links to my final observation, that ‘Affinity’ manages to deftly and expertly merge the sounds of the past with the sounds of the future. In spite of the 1980s sheen, all nine compositions on ‘Affinity’ come across to me as fresh and exciting, with accents of djent, post-rock, ambient and all manner of other sounds bursting forth at whim.Having said all that, ‘1985’ is almost entirely immersed in the 80s. In the same way as ‘Cockroach King’ was Haken’s ‘all-out’ track on ‘The Mountain’, ‘1985’ is the song on ‘Affinity’ that throws a little caution to the wind and shows Haken at their most audacious in many respects. Synth drums, overt retro sounds and an occasional dive headlong into 80s movie soundtrack territory all take place within this ambitious composition. However, it works, retaining a homogenous feel throughout. It is made all the more special thanks to a really rousing, hooky chorus that is nothing short of addictive.The elegant ‘Lapse’ features some of Jennings’ most accomplished vocal work on this record, and indeed throughout the entire back catalogue. The vocal chords are stretched in directions that must have been really challenging but the result is gripping, full of sincerity and emotion in places.‘The Architect’ is Haken’s monster epic. At 15 minutes long, it allows the band the time to explore a number of ideas without ever feeling cluttered or disjointed. The track starts off in grand, cinematic style before exploding in a barely-controlled prog metal assault. It is here that Haken most clearly reference their earlier output as the music flits between the over-the-top excesses of the debut and the grandiose tones of ‘Visions’.I’m then reminded vaguely of Tool in the more refrained guitar work and rhythms that follow, before another memorable chorus of sorts grabs the attention. And then, the song plunges into a music abyss where everything falls away to eventually and gradually rebuild over time. The foreboding yet ambient synth sounds lay the early groundwork as the bass guitar of relative newbie Conner Green joins the fray with some exceptionally expressive, deft and highly musical work. Ray Hearne’s drumming is subtle but inspired, and the resulting guitar interplay between Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths is inventive, melodious and ear-catching.If that wasn’t enough, as the song ascends from the depths, the band are joined by Leprous’ Einar Solberg who adds his unique gruff vocals atop some heavy djent-like riffing before a return to the chorus and an epic lead guitar solo that rivals that of ‘Aquarium’ for spine tingling majesty.‘Earthrise’ is possibly my favourite track on the album right now. I adore the quiet and melodic opening because it fills me with a warm glow and the feeling that the world can’t be an entirely awful place if such beautiful music can be written. It develops into a composition that is bright and breezy, complimented by lyrics that have a distinctly positive vibe to them.By contrast, ‘Red Giant’ explores entirely different terrain. It is the most modern and post-rock that Haken have ever sounded and is also one of their most brooding and quietly intense compositions. The keys and rhythm section take the lead on this track, which is arguably the biggest and most consistent grower on the entire record.‘The Endless Knot’ features some delicious drum fills from Mr Hearne and more killer melodies. It also affords Diego the opportunity to go a little crazy with more zany and out-there sounds. It also allows some six-string indulgence in the shape of one of the most intricate and dextrous guitar leads at around the mid-point. The song constantly shifts direction throughout its relatively modest life, but is held together by those strong melodies which return time and again to my great delight.‘Bound By Gravity’ then closes out the album in an impossibly perfect manner. It is arguably one of the softest songs that Haken have ever penned but it is also one of the most beautiful. Acoustic guitars and more warm and inviting keys, vaguely reminiscent of Sigur Ros envelop the listener in a soothing, comforting embrace. Jennings’ soft and gentle delivery adds an almost ethereal quality to the track as it floats along on a warm current of magical melody that is both uplifting and almost heart breaking. Such is its understated and subtle beauty, I find myself smiling broadly and wiping tears from my eyes almost simultaneously.How do I sum up an album like this? I could have mentioned a million bands throughout this review, from Textures to King Crimson and beyond as indeed there are reference points all over the place if you’re of a mind to count them. However, Haken are Haken and the bottom line is that they have developed into a modern prog band that is truly unique. ‘Affinity’ is one of the best progressive albums I have ever had the pleasure to listen to but more than that, it truly moves me and I connect to it on an emotional level; it makes me smile, it makes me cry and it makes me feel alive." - The Blog Of Much Metal
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