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Live acoustic album from the duo of Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius, Cain's Offering) and Jani Liimatainen (Sonata Arctica, Cain's Offering).  The disc consists of them performing cover tunes as well as a couple of tracks taken from Kotipelto's solo work.

$11.00
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Seems like reunions are about to become the rage in Italy. First Arti & Mestieri and now Goblin. This is the soundtrack to the latest Dario Argento film Nonhosonno.

$15.00
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Not typical Laser's Edge fare but its the friggin' Beatles - COME ON!!! We got a great deal on this edition but these are sold with a warning. They are cut outs...and in this case I mean CUT OUT. Its a pretty savage deep cut that goes through the box/booklet but doesn't affect the CDs.

$20.00
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"Largely known for their fantastic album “As I turned as I had turned as a boy” from 1971, a true folk-rock delight, British group Dulcimer had also recorded a second album to make it released that same year, but for some reason it went unreleased.



$24.00

"Sündenfall II from the Kevelaer area at the Lower Rhine played a mixture of folk and jazz, influenced by Jethro Tull.

$36.00

One Of A Kind

$8.00
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The guitar legend returns with a decidedly more subdued effort. Having said that his trademark smoldering, emotional guitar work is displayed in spades. He still plays with that intense fire and yeah the speed is still there. Wait until you hear "The Turning" - he rips it up.

$15.00
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In the UK there is a growing movement of bands that are revisiting 70s progressive and classic rock. Diagonal and Litmus would be examples although compared to Wolf People they explore the more progressive side of the spectrum.

$15.00
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Second solo album that Peter Bardens recorded for Transatlantic in 1971. Bardens emphasized his blues rock roots on this one. Probably for completists only but still given the royal treatment from Esoteric.

$9.00
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Christina has co-written all 10 tracks with long-time collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Rob Reed (Magenta, Trippa, ChimpanA) who also mixed and produced the album.

$15.00
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  • OK WE GOT A HOT ONE HERE!  Latest album from keyboard maestro Lalle Larsson is full-on balls to the wall fusion.  He's hooked up again with Richard Hallebeek, who is one of the great Holdsworth clones out there.  The rest of the band is Stefan Rosqvist (rhythm guitar), Jonas Reingold (bass), and Walle Wahlgren (drums).  Larsson lays down lethal synth leads and swaps back and forth with Hallebeek who matches him with dexterous legato runs.    Time will tell but I think this may be Lalle Larsson's best solo album yet!  Highly recommended.
    $16.00
  • Its been almost 4 years since the band's phenomenal debut.  Since that time the duo of Mariusz Boniecki and Marcin Kledzik have expanded into a live gigging quartet.  I'm pleased to say that in terms of their music the band has not lost any momentum.  The same influences are still present - you will hear the imprint of Porcupine Tree and King Crimson.  The title of the album is a bit of a giveaway - this is not uplifting music.  It is filled with noir-ish, melancholy atmosphere.  Emotion filled vocals ride on top of Crafty guitarwork.  The technicality is there but you have to listen for it.  Think of a head on collision between In Absentia and Discipline and then take it one step beyond.  Clearly Pinkroom does it again.  BUY OR DIE!
    $13.00
  • "The first album by Flying Colors got mixed reviews. Some people loved it (I was one of those) whilst others were disappointed that a band that included Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse had made an album that wasn't very "prog." Well, the second album from this band can't be criticised in that way because this is most definitely a prog album. Opening with a 12 minute song, and ending with a 12 minute, three part suite, these are the obvious progressive songs, but most of the shorter songs also mix pop/rock with progressive elements.So, starting at the beginning, Open Up Your Eyes is like a mini-Transatlantic epic, with the first four minutes consisting of an instrumental overture before the vocal come in. There are plenty of swirling keyboards and lead guitar, and Portnoy's characteristic drumming is there too (something that was largely absent from the first album.) The next two tracks are more in a heavy metal style, something not usually to my taste, but certainly Mask Machine has a catchy hook and is an obvious choice for a single. After Bombs Away comes a more straightforward ballad, then the rocker A Place In Your World with some nice guitar riffs and keyboard lines, plus a singalong chorus. Lost Without You is another Power Ballad and the shortest song on the album at under 5 minutes. Then we get to the point at which the album really hits the heights. I defy anyone to listen to the last 3 tracks, one after the other, and not be amazed at the genius of this band. Kicking off with One Love Forever, which has an infectious acoustic guitar riff and a celtic feel, we then move on to what is probably my favourite song on the album. Peaceful Harbour has a beautiful spiritual feel to it, and the beginning and end put me in mind of Mostly Autumn. Finally we have a real gem. Cosmic Symphony is a three part suite with sections approximately three, three and six minutes long. It starts with thunder and rain effects and a simple repeated piano line before vocals, drums and guitar come in. Finally these are joined by a melodic bass line. The second section is more jazz keyboard based and then we move on to the final part which reminded me of REM. The song ends with the same piano line and thunder effects which began it.A superb album, even better than their first and certainly proggier." - ProgArchives
    $6.00
  • Brief Nocturnes is the band's 11th album.  It marks their return to Inside Out and quite frankly its the best album they have released in a very long time.  Chalk it up to Ted Leonard handling vocals or Neal Morse contributing writing to a couple of tunes?  Not sure.  I am definitely hearing more vitality and overt progginess in the compositions.  Ryo is going off his nut here - keys are whizzing all around - organ/'tron/the whole schmear - and Alan's guitar runs are matching him step for step.  Maybe I haven't been paying attention as closely as I should have for the past few years.  I do know that I'm enjoying the hell out of this.  Highly recommended.
    $14.00
  • In our changeover in distributors we received back a quantity of copies of Specs. We need to bring our inventory level back to normal so we are going to temporarily blow out this title. Grab copies at below wholesale price while you can.
    $13.00
  • "Despite what the name might lead you to think, progressive metal is among the most static and boring of all heavy music genres. Half the bands that fall under the moniker exist merely as a vehicle to show off the skills of the players involved, which is fine in small doses, but rarely sustains a creative career. The other half of the bands stick rigidly to the blueprint of one of the fore-bearers of the genre, giving us music that sounds exactly like something we've already heard. Very little of progressive metal is actually interesting, because it is a genre that lacks people dedicated to the art of songwriting. Songs are what makes any band successful, no matter how much sheer musical skill they possess. Dream Theater didn't get to where they are just because they are amazing musicians, they also wrote a slew of great songs and albums. The number of progressive metal bands who have impressed me with their songwriting in recent years is miniscule, but I mention all of this because Ascendia is one of them.As “At The End Of It All” swells into focus with a tribal drum beat and chanted vocals, it's already obvious that this is not going to be prog-by-numbers. The song kicks into gear with a syncopated guitar riff, before the vocals soar over the top of everything, slapping a thick coat of melody atop the sound. There's a quiet section in the middle of the song that feels like a cousin of Killswitch Engage, which is a fresh sound to hear in this kind of music. When it opens back up into the chorus, the song is massive, and it's hard to believe all of that music was contained in five and a half minutes.The songs on the album are more bite-sized than typical progressive metal, but that plays into the band's strengths as songwriters. By keeping the songs lean and tight, they hit harder than if the instrumental sections had been extended by a minute here and there. There is interesting playing going on, but it's all done within the framework of the songs, and never put out front to dominate the spotlight. It's an approach that is smart not just because of how easy it is to get bogged down in instrumental pyrotechnics, but because an album of that sort would never be able to survive the Herculean vocal presence of singer Nick Sakal.With more than a little bit of similarity to the former singer of the aforementioned Killswitch Engage, Howard Jones, Sakal's vocals dominate the album, making you wonder where a voice like that could have come from. His baritone is warm, rich, and not at all what you would expect to hear in a band that isn't playing down-tuned hardcore.But what is most important are the songs, and that's where Ascendia proves themselves as standouts. Whether tackling more modern fare like “Remember Me”, or more traditionally melodic songs like “Moonchild”, there's a phenomenal blend of heavy riffing and soaring melody. I can't tell you how rare it is to hear a progressive metal band that is so in tune with melody, and can write songs that could stand up if they were stripped down to the chord structure and the vocals. We get an example of that with the duet ballad, “The Song That You Deserved”, a largely piano and voice song that is as beautiful as it is heart-breaking. Ascendia's ear for songs is excellent, and that is what makes “The Lion And The Jester” such an engaging listen. Song after song, there's a warm and inviting chorus waiting to wrap its arms around you after you've heard the heavy and intricate moments.This year has been off to a ridiculously great start, with at least half a dozen legitimately great records having already come my way. Add “The Lion And The Jester” to that list, because Ascendia is making progressive metal the way it was always supposed to be. Both challenging and gratifying, intense and cathartic, “The Lion And The Jester” is a phenomenal piece of work that reminds me of the very best progressive metal I've ever heard. This is an album you need to hear.Oh, and how awesome is that cover art? That is one album that will look as good as it sounds in a collection." - Bloody Good Horror
    $10.00
  • "Unwritten Pages’ Noah is an album born out of a passion for progressive, driving music, concept albums and 80’s science-fiction film. It combines the broad musical taste of its creator Frederic Epe and the stylistic and unique musical backgrounds of each project member, reaching from rock and metal to Latin influences and more classical/score-oriented arrangements.The album features soaring guitars, fat organs and bone-breaking drums, as well as a healthy dose of retro. But most of all, it never loses its focus on unique and melody-driven song-writing. And it comes in the form of an ambitious story, told through the eyes of the vocalists and musicians.Noah tells the story of a boy born in the ruins of the futuristic Utopia City, and Maria, the daughter of a ruthless politician who has – literally – split Utopia City in half and driven the poor to a district known as LS01X. As the political climate escalates, a few hundred people from both sides of the city are forced to leave their home world and start a new life on Mars. Here, both Maria and the boy grow up in the middle of a rising conflict between two factions that are unwilling to ignore their grudge-ridden past. Noah features the talents of Damian Wilson (Threshold, Ayreon, Les Misérables), Karl Groom (Threshold, Shadowland), Davy Mickers (Stream of Passion, Ayreon), Alejandro Millán (Hello Madness, Stream of Passion) and many others."
    $3.00
  • I guess miracles do happen. Incredible to think that its been 18 years since Epilog was released. The long promised third album is finally here and it does not disappoint. The boys and girl are back in town and they sound exactly the way they did on Hybris and Epilog. Essentially Anglagard infuse their music with the best elements of 70s prog from Sweden, Germany, and England and do it at the same high standard as the original bands that influenced them. Viljans Oga consists of 4 epic tracks of Mellotron laded symphonic rock bliss.After the band's triumphant return to the stage at Nearfest Apocalypse, the band generously divided up their remaining stock of the new album among the various vendors. For the moment we have a limited stock that we expect to sell out very quickly. More will be on the way shortly. For the moment - if you are reading this grab it because it won't be here the next time you look.BUY OR DIE!
    $22.00
  • OH MY GOD!!! This Polish band sounds so much like Riverside that the album must have been written with tracing paper. No wonder - Riverside vocalist Mariusz Duda was an original member of Xanadu years ago. The band broke up but Xanadu's drummer put together a new version of the band in 2008.Not original in any way shape or form but if you want something to tide you over until the next Riverside disc arrives maybe this will scratch your itch. Its well done - just not one original idea here.  Probably the best of all the Riverside clones.
    $3.00
  • MY BROTHER THE WIND is an improvisational cosmic rock collective consisting of members of widely known Swedish acts Makajodama, Magnolia, Animal Daydream and most notably Anekdoten, one of the more widely recognized names in the 1990s prog rock revival.Recorded live in the studio with no overdubs during a single day in January 2013, Once There Was A Time When Time And Space Were One captures the collective's progressive soundscape qualities with incredible analogue studio production. The band utilized 6 and 12 string acoustic and electric guitars, Mellotron, flute, bass, drums, congas and more to complete the task. Expect 45 minutes of the band's most succinct material to date, recorded deep in the snowy, forested, Swedish wilderness.In 2013, MBTW expanded into an even wider fanbase, having been invited to play the mighty Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Holland, as well as at Duna Jam in Sardinia.  At the invitation of Opeth’s Mikael Okerfeldt, guitarist Nicklas Barker returned to Roadburn to perform an improv set with Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske.Those who frequent the works of Popol Vuh, Amon Duul, Sun Ra, Träd, Gräs Och Stenar, Albert Ayler, Ash Ra Tempel, Gong, Pink Floyd and other visionary, psychedelic rock artists are advised to investigate this act. "Lush and instrumental for its duration, My Brother the Wind‘s third full-length, Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One (released by Free Electric Sound/Laser’s Edge), rolls out of the speakers much easier than its title rolls off the tongue, though both title and the work itself satisfy rhythmically. The Swedish four-piece — they now seem to be a bass-less trio with Nicklas Barker (Anekdoten) and Mathias Danielsson (Makajodama) on electric/acoustic 12-strong guitar and Daniel Fridlund Brandt on drums, but Ronny Eriksson plays bass on the album — reportedly recorded live to two-inch tape on a vintage machine, and the passion they put in bleeds readily into the nine-song/45-minute outing, fleshed with liberal splashes of Mellotron courtesy of Barker to play up a ’70s prog feel in a piece like the 12-minute “Garden of Delights.” That’s hardly the only point at which those sensibilities emerge, but even more than that, the primary vibe here is one of gorgeous heavy psych exploration, the band adventuring and feeling their way through the material as they go.On peaceful moments like the title-track, which arrives as the penultimate movement before “Epilogue” leads the way back to reality — accordingly, “Prologue” brings us in at the start — that exploration is positively serene, the 12-string complemented by spacious electric tones spreading out across vast reaches, but Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One offers more than drone and psychedelic experiments. Subtly pushed forward by Brandt‘s drums, pieces like “Into the Cosmic Halo” and even “Epilogue” enact classic space rock thrust, and even “Song of Innocence Part 1,” the first part of the journey after the backward atmospherics of “Prologue” introduce, has some cosmic feel amid its echoing solos. Its subsequent complement, “Song of Innocence Part 2,” swells to life on an even more active roll, waves of amp noise up front while drums and bass groove out behind, waiting for the guitars to catch up, which they do in a suitably glorious payoff, relatively brief but masterfully engaging, setting a momentum that continues well into “Garden of Delights,” a focal point for more than its length.Because the songs flow so well one to the next, some directly bleeding, others giving a brief pause, and because later cuts like “Thomas Mera Gartz” — named in honor of the drummer for ’70s Swedish proggers Träd, Gräs och Stenar — and the title-track have a quieter take, it’s tempting to read some narrative into the shifts of Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One, but with the material not being premeditated, I’m not sure that’s the intention so much as a signal it’s well arranged. In any case, the album offers an immersive, resonant listen, with tonal richness to spare and the presence of mind to keep a sense of motion even in its stillest parts and a balance of organic elements — Danielsson‘s recorder and Brandt‘s percussion on “Misty Mountainside,” the 12-string, etc. — amid a wash of effects and swirling psychedelia. This attention to sonic detail makes Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One more than just a collection of jams, and adds further purpose to the already worthy cause of My Brother the Wind‘s thoughtful musings, wandering and not at all lost." - The Obelisk
    $13.00
  • Excellent debut from this Venezuelan band. Echoes skirts the edge between progressive rock and metal. Clearly Dream Theater (and Rush to some degree) are an influence but the music isn't as heavy as most progressive metal bands. There are some great atmospheric parts that have more of a prog rock vibe. There are a number of guest vocalists that contribute to the album and they are all quite good. I'm surprised there isn't more of a latin influence going on - these guys could pass for a US band. I can see this easily appealing to fans of both prog rock and prog metal. Highly recommended.
    $3.00
  • My Soliloquy is a British band formed in 2002 by multi-instrumentalist Pete Morten.  Since then the band has released a number of demos, gaining traction in the metal underground. The band had a number of notable support shows with Pagans Mind, Power Quest, Oliver and Rick Wakeman, and Threshold, as well as a second-to-headline set at Bloodstock 05 and a showcase at 2007’s ProgPower UK II.Since 2007, Morten has been an active member of British prog metal legends Threshold.  His membership has raised awareness (and created anticipation) for My Soliloquy’s long awaited debut.The essence of My Soliloquy is pure forward thinking metal – symphonic keyboards, shredding guitar leads, soaring vocals – all finely woven together with a blend of intricacy and melody.  The Interpreter was mixed and mastered by Rob Aubrey who has been a mainstay of Marillion’s camp for many years.
    $5.00
  • "Clive Nolan and his Neo-hard rocking companions return for the eighth Arena album in twenty years, `The Unquiet Sky', taking inspiration from (without being a direct interpretation of) M.R James' short story `Casting the Runes'. It's easy to see why the ghostly tale of supernatural intrigue and occult mystery from 1911 would appeal to Mr Nolan, and the album reveals plenty of the sleek and heavy symphonic rock with poetic lyrics that the British band is known for. The previous disc `The Seventh Degree of Separation' was a divisive and somewhat controversial release for a new line-up of the group that now included vocalist Paul Manzi, a transitional album that saw them adopting a more streamlined hard rock/metal sound. But long-time fans of the group will be pleased to know that, while there are still similarities to that previous album here and there, the much-loved symphonic atmospheres the band was known for are given more focus again, meaning a better balance of these two qualities together to create a truly sublime Arena work.Some of the twelve tracks on offer still retain a hard-rock flavour, but everything an Arena fan could hope to discover is all present and accounted for here. After a more low-key performance on the previous album, virtuoso keyboardist/composer Clive Nolan is center stage again over the entire disc. Not only are his exquisite synths constant and upfront, but the artist has also implemented plenty of theatrical and orchestral symphonic textures into the group this time around, his recent work with the `Alchemy' musical being obvious right from the start, and these theatrical flourishes are a perfect fit for the group. Vocalist Manzi made a promising and reliable debut as singer for the group on `...Separation', but here he lifts his game considerably and offers endless more vocal variety. Better worked into the group, he is equally at home with heartfelt ballads, theatre flair and chest-beating rockers, and he has really become a perfect frontman for the band. Kylan Amos from Nolan's own `Alchemy' production replaces bass player and IQ member John Jowitt and makes an impressive debut here, ex-Marillion drummer perfectly drives the music forwards and It Bites/Kino/Lonely Robot guitarist John Mitchell delivers his usual tasteful and commanding guitar flair.Of several of the highlights, listen out for the gleefully wicked and wondrous orchestral pomp that opens the album that could easily be an outtake from Mr Nolan's `Alchemy' show, the infernal and overwhelming church organ intimidation of `The Demon Strikes' and especially the shimmering dark reggae (yes, really!) chimes and sleek electronics of the thrashing `No Chance Encounter', where Kylan's bass really glides. `The Bishop of Lufford' perfectly mixes ghostly gothic mystery with soaring symphonic prog and muscular hard rock (and wait for that hair-tearing heavy finale!). `Oblivious to the Night' is a fragile little piano interlude with whimsical synths and a thoughtful vocal, `Markings on a Parchment' is an eerie dream-like introspective instrumental, and Mitchell's extended guitar solo in the classy title track even brings to mind Nolan's other band Pendragon.Cascading classical piano spirals with snarling brooding guitars in `What Happened Before', and Clive delivers an overload of delirious synth soloing goodness on both `Time is Running Out' and `Returning the Curse' in the best Nolan tradition that his fans always love to hear! `Unexpected Dawn' is a strong ballad with warm Hammond organ and soothing acoustic guitar, and the ambitious seven minute closer `Traveller Beware' finds time for plenty of ghostly gothic tension, punchy plodding heavy riffs, creeping piano and a stirring repeated chorus with a dark lyric.But special mention has to go to glorious power balled entitled `How Did It Come To This?'. It's a glorious emotional tune with a sombre piano melody, delicate orchestration and dreamy lyrics, carried by a perfectly controlled yet soaring vocal from Manzi. A restrained unfolding guitar solo from Mitchell in the middle ensures it may be one of the truly most heartfelt pieces ever to appear on an Arena album, and it's certainly one of their most purely romantic musical statements to date.Along with typically fascinating and surreal proggy cover artwork and a lavish CD booklet (but what a shame there doesn't seem to be a vinyl version in the works so far), `The Unquiet Sky' is one of the most lavish, sophisticated and varied Arena albums to date, and certainly one of their most endlessly melodic. It's a fine return to form for the Neo prog institution, and it really shows what this latest line-up is capable of, so hopefully even more impressive music is to come from the mighty Arena!" - ProgArchives
    $16.00
  • " "The cold war's gone, but those bastards'll find us another one/They're here to protect you, don't you know?/So get used to it - Get used to it!.../The sense that it's useless, and the fear to try/Not believing the leaders, the media that feed us/Living with the big lie." ("Living With the Big Lie," from Brave)In the 27 years since Steve Hogarth took over as lead vocalist for Marillion, the band has had only one bona fide concept album: the aurally and emotionally stunning Brave (1994). Using as a starting point the (true) news story of a young woman found roaming around an area of England -- who did not know who she was, or where she had come from, and even refused to speak to the police or the media -- the band created a fictional "back story" for her, which included some fairly "dark" elements, including re politics, socio-culture, media -- and fear. The above quotation is a good example -- and very relevant to their new album, as the new album offers a look at how the "big lie" has become even bigger. However, the overall effect of Brave was more "melancholic" than grim, more sad than "judgmental" (of the society they describe).Twenty-two years later, the same (or worse) "darkness" exists in many of the same ways, but even more ominously now -- and this time the band is at the center of the story -- and they are ANGRY. Indeed, the overall effect of the album is one of barely checked (and occasionally unbridled) anger, and a deep frustration and concern both for England (whom they are directly addressing) and beyond (including the U.S., for whom some of the issues are the same). One might say (borrowing another phrase from Brave) that the band is no longer "hollow men," but has become both worldly-wise and world-weary, both "informed" and disillusioned, even (to a degree) cynical.The album consists of three suites, separated by two other compositions, one of which relates directly to the suites, the other of which seems a tad out of place (though, as we will see, its inclusion does make some sense). The three suites -- "El Dorado," "The Leavers," and "The New Kings" -- and the related composition ("Living in FEAR") are all, in one form or another, observations on fear: how it is created (fear-mongering), how it is controlled (via politics and media), how it affects people. The other composition ("White Paper") is mostly a meditation on love -- in this case, "dying" love -- though it seems that the love is dying at least in part as the result of the prevailing atmos-fear. Thus, while it is a tad more "jarring" in this context then the similar inclusion of love on Brave, there is no question that love is also a victim of fear.The album opens with "El Dorado," a five-part composition that describes the plight of immigrants, and the roadblocks (both figurative and literal) that they often encounter, particularly including xenophobia:"The roads are traveled by many, like promises of peace./And some choose not to go -- the fear looks like bravado./I see them waiting, smiling, on the borders in dawn's mist,/Or lost to the world in their upturned boats"/"I see myself in them, the people at the borders/Denied our so-called golden streets,/Running from demolished lives into walls."It doesn't get much more concise, and understandably cynical, than that. In fact, this suite makes an interesting companion piece to "Gaza" (from their previous album, Sounds That Can't Be Made): where the latter (a 17-minute epic) is specific to a certain group, the former (another 17-minute epic) deals with a broader scope. It is also interesting to note that this album was written and recorded well before the Brexit vote, and could be seen as somewhat prescient in that regard."Living in FEAR" is a more generalized look at fear, and particularly the responses it creates, not least including a variety of "walls" (again, both literal and figurative). Noting specific walls and "lines not to be crossed" (the Great Wall of China, the Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall -- all of which are called "a waste of time"), it also speaks to the "walls" that people themselves put up when they are afraid.That observation is made against a hopeful call for some sort of normalcy:"The key left in the outside of the unlocked door isn't forgetfulness --/It's a challenge to change your heart./The apple pie cooling on the windowsill is such a welcome change/From living in fear -- year after year after year./There's a price to pay, living in fear is so very dear./Can you really afford it?"There is also a call to "put down our arms" ("We've decided to risk melting our guns -- as a show of strength").Although least "political," the second suite ("The Leavers") puts the band in the center of the story -- after all, touring allows for a degree of observation of the world that is perhaps only shared by true "world travelers." The band sees itself as "Leavers" -- "parties that travel" -- who show up for a day or two and then move on. They arrive "before dawn," and "slip in from ring- roads," bringing their "boxes of noises, boxes of light": "We will make a show and then we'll go." They juxtapose themselves against the "Remainers": those who "remain in their homely places" (i.e., lead normal lives), and sometimes "try to persuade us, and tame us, and train us and save us and keep us home as we try to fit in with the family life." But once in a while, the Remainers "leave their homely places with excited faces -- preparing their minds for a break from the sensible life" (i.e., a rock concert)..."[I]n one sacred ritual, we all come together -- We're all one tonight."As noted, although "White Paper" is something of an "outlier" here, it nevertheless provides a look at how fear can affect love -- and vice-versa."The New Kings" is the angriest and most sardonic of the three suites. It addresses money and media, plutocrats and oligarchs. Re money, it is decidedly less than kind:"We are the new Kings, buying up London from Monaco./We do as we please, while you do as you're told./Our world orbits yours and enjoys the view,//From this height we don't see the slums and the bums on the street./Oceans of money high in the clouds/But if you hang around, more often than not it will trickle down./We're too big to fall, we're too big to fail."Even Gordon Gekko gets a shout-out ("Greed is good").With respect to the media, the following plaint by a confused citizen pretty much nails the cynicism of many people (including conspiracy theorists):"We saw the crash on the news today/It changed our lives -- but did it really happen?.../I don't know if I can believe the news/They can do anything with computers these days."As an aside, it is interesting to consider "The New Kings" in light of the following from Brave's "Paper Lies":"Are we living only for today?/It's a sign of the times --/We believe anything and nothing./When you look into the money/Do you see a face you hardly recognize?/When you get behind the news of the world/Do the things you find begin to bend your mind?/Paper lies."As noted, after 22 years, not only has nothing changed, but it seems to have gotten worse.But the band leaves its bitterest anger at the "approaching storm" (which may well already be here) for last:"Remember a time when you thought that you mattered/Believed in the school song, die for your country/A country that cared for you -- all in it together?/A national anthem you could sing without feeling used or ashamed./If it ever was more than a lie, or some naïve romantic notion/Well, it's all shattered now./Why is nothing ever true?.../On your knees, peasant. You're living for the New King."Although Marillion (and particularly Mr. Hogarth) has always dabbled in socio-politics, it has become increasingly present -- and the band increasingly concerned -- of late. In this regard, F.E.A.R. is a shamelessly -- and understandably -- angry set of observations, and brings their socio-politics to a fine (rapier-like) point.Musically, if Marillion's three strongest musical influences are (as I have always felt) Genesis, Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues, this album is strongly (and superbly) Floydian, with nice touches of the Moodies, and only occasional Genesis influence. (Indeed, the electric piano figure in "The Gold," and some other keyboard figures, could have been lifted from PF's Animals. And much of the guitar work throughout has a wonderfully Gilmour-ish sensibility.) This is actually not surprising (and is meant as a compliment), given that PF are the masters of the kind of "dystopian" rock that F.E.A.R. represents. And although everyone in the band is superb -- and there is a deceptively brilliant cohesion that approaches a sort of uber-gestalt -- this album is largely Mark Kelly's (with a more-than-able assist from guitarist Steve Rothery): although Mr. Hogarth undoubtedly plays some piano parts, it is Mr. Kelly's piano and keyboards (along with the atmospheres and effects created in the studio) that undergird nearly the entire album. And this, too, is not surprising, since this is true of almost every great concept album in prog.As suggested above, there are also quite a few allusions (subconscious or not), both lyrical and musical, to Brave. In fact, after you have had a chance to truly take this album in, I invite you to go back and read the lyrics to Brave, and then listen to Brave again. And this is not in any way a criticism of F.E.A.R.: if anything, it is another compliment. Indeed, the only reason I am rating this album 4.5 instead of five stars is that I gave five stars to Brave; and while this album is superb in every way -- and harks back to that masterpiece -- it does not quite reach the frightening brilliance of its predecessor.Finally, there is an aspect of this album that I have not found with any other concept album in memory. [N.B. This is where even curious readers who are reading this before listening may want to stop and listen to the album first. I am quite serious. I'll give you a little time to think about it. (Tick-tock-tick-tock?)]What I have discovered is that the five pieces are strangely "inter-changeable." What I mean by this is that the song order can be changed, not only without changing the overall concept, but, in at least one case (and I admit this is hopelessly presumptive) possibly strengthening it.This thought first occurred when I received the album as a download, with the song "Tomorrow's New Country" closing the album, even though it appeared on the lyric sheet as the sixth ("vi") part of "The Leavers." When I contacted Marillion to make sure this was the correct placement, I asked, if it was, whether it was deliberate: i.e., an attempt to "soften the blow" at the end of "The New Kings." The response was, yes, it was meant as an "antidote" (their word), and was deliberately moved from "The Leavers" to the end of the album (though the lyric sheet still reflected its original place).So -- I decided to see what the album would sound like putting "Tomorrow's New Country" back in its "proper" place. And the effect was remarkable. Not better or worse, just -- different, in a surprising (and even conceptually relevant) way. (Once you have heard the album in its given order a few times, I highly recommend programming it to do this -- just for fun, if nothing else.) Then, feeling as I do about "White Paper," I decided to test a theory, and played the five pieces in a couple of different orders entirely (while keeping the three suites in order). The order that surprised me most (in a positive, eyebrow-raising way) with respect to expressing the overall concept (and also working together "musically" from one track to another) was starting with "White Paper," playing the three suites in their present order one after the other, and ending with "Living in FEAR." Again, I am not suggesting that the order chosen by the band is "wrong" in any way. After all, the band's "vision" is the one that counts, and there are reasons (good ones!) that they chose the song order that they did. I am simply suggesting that, unlike most (maybe any) concept albums you've heard, there is an interesting ability to "play around" with the placement of the two non-suites, and maintain both conceptual and musical integrity.Ultimately, F.E.A.R. is a superb album (and, like all great albums, gets better with each listen), and a welcome addition not only to Marillion's oeuvre, but to the prog concept album canon. Kudos to one of the few bands that keeps neo-prog not simply alive, but thriving and -- progressing. And a band that has genuine care and concern for the world around them and the people who live in it." - ProgArchives
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