Folk Metal

"Debut albums are exciting to review as you go in with unexpectations rather than expectations. There is no backlog of albums to sample prior to listening. There are no “best of” CDs to pop in to see if our cast of players ‘still got it’. Nothing!

$15.00
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"Consistency and creativity are usually the strengths that motivate most any band. That, and the dogged determination to stick to your guns, play the music you like. With their fourth album, Beyond The Veil, England's Dark Forest goes from strength to strength.

$14.00
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This is the heavy cardboard digipak collector's edition with two bonus tracks.  We've been alerted that it is already about to go out of print.

$15.00
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"After 8 studio albums, Italian folk/power metallers ELVENKING finally fulfill the wish of their dedicated, worldwide fanbase and release a Live DVD now. Recordings for 'The Night Of Nights - Live' took place in Pordenone, Italy. The magic of this very special night was captured perfectly.

$19.00
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"A Canadian-bred combination of progressive, power, death and black metal (with a touch of folk music for organic purposes), Progressive Darkness is one bold debut, with a title that best sums up its sound.

$5.00
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Lots of gothic metal bands are fortunate to be fronted by an attractive female. Midnattsol has two knock outs! Nordlys (Northern Lights) is the second album from this Norwegian gothic metal band led by Carmen Elise Espenaes (the younger sister of Liv Kristine).

$4.00
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"Artaius is back with an album ‘Torn Banners’, the sequel of their debut-album ‘The Fifth Season’. And in this seventh season of their existence, the band takes off, where they left us two years ago with their debut.

$12.00
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Reissue of the first album from this Italian folk metal band.  Vocals are sung in Italian and English.  Death and clean vocals abound.

$15.00
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"I’ve always found a certain charm in the strange lovechild of a genre that is folk metal.

$14.00
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"There are some bands that have a feel of “going through the motions” when releasing new albums, either relying on successes of previous efforts or generally uninspired by the process.

$16.00
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  • Since the release of 2013’s In Crescendo, Kingcrow toured North America in support of Pain Of Salvation, and headlined a European tour.  Kingcrow kept busy in 2014, touring Europe with Fates Warning and at the same time crafting the material that would become Eidos.“Eidos” is a new conceptual album about choices, consequences, dealing with regret and disillusion. Their earlier album Phlegethon dealt with childhood and In Crescendo about the end of youth.  Eidos can be considered the third part of a trilogy about the path of life. Musically it sees the band exploring new territories and pushing the extremes of its complex soundscape with a darker atmosphere and a more progressive attitude.Describing the band today is quite a difficult task, but one could state that the influence of such artists as Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead , King Crimson and Massive Attack are all present in the music of Kingcrow.With each release Kingcrow has taken a step further away from their original roots as a classic metal band and is now one of the most personal and exciting bands that Italy has to offer.
    $13.00
  • 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
  • Superb return to form from these German masters of melodic progressive metal. Beyond Daylight exhibits many similarities to The God Thing and may well prove out to be their best effort yet.
    $15.00
  • Now here is a band that singlehandedly may be turning prog metal on its head and giving it a good kick in the ass at the same time.Need is a Greek prog metal band that has been around for a bit but like most bands from that country they don't get much attention outside of their homeland.  Orvam is their third album and it finds them stepping up their game quite a bit.Orvam: A Song For Home blends a variety of influences and dishes up something completely mesmerizing.  The band's musical DNA includes Fates Warning, Tool, Nevermore, and lots of prog rock.  All of these influences will crop up but tossed together in a unique way.  Its heavy but complex - ethereal and hypnotic.  Hell the band even weaves in some Mediterranean themes revealing their real roots.  Vocalist Jon V. is the anchor to the musical and he does a phenomenal job, sounding like vintage Ray Alder.  I love how amid all the grinding guitar riffs the band mixes a splash of old school Hammond organ.  Cap this monster off with the 18 minute title piece and you've got an instant classic.  The whole production was expertly mixed by Neil Kernon and masterfully mastered by Alan Douches.  BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • The Custodian is a new British post-progressive rock band formed by Richard Thomson, vocalist for cinematic death metal band Xerath.  Unlike Xerath, The Custodian is an outlet for the more melodic, rock oriented writing from Thomson.While there are moments in the album that harken back to old school bands like Genesis and Yes, the music of The Custodian is contemporary in sound.  Necessary Wasted Time is an album full of dynamics - light and dark shadings balancing acoustic vs electric, heavy vs pastoral.  While atmospherics and tension are a strong component of the album, the band demonstrates their adept musicianship offering up long instrumental passages to complement the emotion filled vocals.  When needed the band unleashes some complex electric runs.The Custodian's debut should deeply resonate with fans of Steven Wilson, Riverside, Pineapple Thief, and Anathema.Necessary Wasted Time was mixed by noted engineer Jacob Hansen and give the full audiophile mastering treatment from Bob Katz. 
    $14.00
  • "Progressive rock and boy-band pop seem like natural enemies at first. The former's fascination with ornate, elongated passages of finger-exhausting musicianship is in almost every way the opposite of the latter's emphasis on catchiness first; it's hard to imagine turn-of-the-millennium hits like "Bye Bye Bye" with extended guitar and keyboard solos. Yet ever since A Doorway to Summer, their 2005 debut, Moon Safari has put to rest the notion that progressive-minded songwriters can't make pop that's as hook-driven as it is ostentatious. Grandiloquent epics like "Other Half of the Sky," from the 2008 double album Blomljud, weave together widescreen arrangements with the band's signature five-part vocal harmony, a feature unmatched by few groups in any genre, anywhere. It's easy to isolate the audience with solipsistic soloing and obtuse orchestrations, but from day one Moon Safari has made prog that—assuming the layperson were more amenable to songs that run upwards of thirty minutes—could lead them to something like a pop crossover hit.But while the union of hook-heavy vocal interplay and '70's prog stylistics gives Moon Safari an unmistakable, unique sound, it also handicapped them in a significant way for their first two LPs. The group's accessibility on A Doorway to Summer and Blomljud, along with its technical prowess, is unassailable, but the high-fructose sweetness of its style leads to a diabetic rush when stretched out onto songs that span ten to thirty minutes. For example, "Other Half of the Sky," the titanic thirty minute showstopper off of Blomljud, has so many memorable hooks that by the time it's run its time out, it's hard to remember all of them. The classic problem of "too many voices leads to a noisy room" was the defining problem of Moon Safari's otherwise enjoyable sound for some time. All that changed, however, in 2010 with the release of Lover's End.It is no exaggeration—even as the decade remains young—to say that Lover's End is one of the finest progressive rock records of the '00's. Hell, it's not even crazy to say that it's one of the finest pop albums of the '00s; anyone, even those turned off by prog's eccentricities, can find something to love on this mellifluous collection of songs. From the a cappella charm of "Southern Belle" to the hook-loaded "New York City Summergirl," Lover's End is chock full of goodness from beginning to end. What explains its genius is that in contrast to A Doorway to Summer and Blomljud, the songs are given exactly the amount of space they need, and not a second more. Some songwriters may feel hamstrung by the verse/chorus structure, but it's a perfect fit for Moon Safari's joyous approach to music.With their newest studio outing, Himlabacken, Vol. 1, Moon Safari continue the refining of their sound, and while this isn't the breakthrough that Lover's End was, it nonetheless attests to the brilliance of this group. Whereas the latter was bound by a loose concept (love and heartbreak), Himlabacken Vol. 1 is less a lyrics album than its predecessor. The cost of this is that the music is less distinct in its cohesiveness, but there are no shortage of catchy passages and amped-up solos. "Mega Moon" comes off as a tribute to musical theatre, with "The Very Model of A Modern Major General" vocal delivery interweaving with Queen-esque bombast to an impressive effect. "Too Young to Say Goodbye" sees and matches the polyharmonic beauty of "Lover's End (Part One)." By sticking to concise song formats—the longest cut here runs nine and a half minutes—Moon Safari ensures that things never run out of steam, an essential quality to any good progressive rock band.If nothing else, Himlabacken, Vol. 1 proves that there's one thing Moon Safari can't be accused of: being unaware of themselves. Grand finale "Sugar Band" is as much a statement of identity as it is a slice of epic pop: "Sweet and saccharine are we," they declare, followed by "syrup's the blood in our veins." (Less successful is the clumsy Katy Perry innuendo of, "suck our big candy canes," which is thematically consistent but tonally off.) Both "Sugar Band" and "Little Man," one of the few Moon Safari songs to feature a solo vocal, are emblematic of the mushiness that might turn some prog fans away from their music. The latter, while obviously a touching document of a father's love for his son, does feel a bit out of place in how deeply personal it is; part of the strength of this group's sonic is the universality of its pop appeal, and the intimacy behind "My Little Man" makes listening to it an almost voyeuristic experience. "Mega Moon" and "Sugar Band" are better at capturing the convivial spirit of the band that's accessible to all.As with past outings, even those drawn to vocal harmonies might find it hard to stomach all of the sweetness of Himlabacken, Vol. 1. But what ultimately makes this LP successful is its unpretentious commitment to fun. Moon Safari are a rare collective that prove daunting musical chops aren't anathema to accessibility, and with Himlabacken, Vol. 1 they've made a recording that, while not the magnum opus that Lover's End was, is as true a capturing of their ethos as there could ever be. Sating a sweet tooth brings to mind the phrase "guilty pleasure," but there's no guilt involved with music as first-class as this. Who knew being in a boy band could sound so classy? " - Sea Of Tranquility
    $16.00
  • IQ made the curious but welcome decision to make a special edition of The Road Of Bones containing 40 minutes of extra material on a second CD.  None of this material is available elsewhere.  Not remixes or throw away tracks - just 40 more minutes of prime IQ!IQ's 10th studio arrives and again with a slightly reconfigured lineup.  The exceptionally gifted Neil Durant, previously with Sphere3, is now handling keyboards.  Nothing dramatic changed.  If anything keyboards might even be a bit more prominent.  Paul Cook and Tim Esau, the original rhythm section, are now in tow. Peter Nicholls is his sombre self.  Guitars seem to be slightly heavier but all in all this sounds like prime IQ.  This is a band that has weathered personnel changes over the year but like a fine wine they've improved with age.  This is a BUY OR DIE release.  Top 10 for 2014. 
    $18.00
  • Vly began as strangers sending 1's and 0's across the Atlantic Ocean. British-based guitarist Karl Demata had a vague idea and a few demos, when a friend put him in touch with New York singer / artist Keith Gladysz. Keith began working on the demos, adding a more melodic, dream-like and decidedly indie sensibility. "It was a new way to work", says Gladysz. "The music and collaborative art I've made always started with people I knew, and creating naturally came out of that understanding. That's not the case with Vly. We managed to make an album without ever meeting. There was no gauge or reference point except for the music. It was a total shot in the dark".The sound of Vly shooting in the dark hits elements of progressive rock, classic rock, folk, early-Floydian psychedelia, intimate pop melodies, massive walls of epic guitar riffage, post-classical, post-rock and electronic music. And it's the diverse background of the members that lead to the breadth of their sound.The progressive sentiment of Italian keyboardist Elisa Montaldo quickly attracted the ear of Demata. "The first time I heard Elisa play" says Karl "I knew we had to be in a band. Her innate melodic approach and instinctual understanding and knowledge of 'anything prog' is simply remarkable"."Karl asked me to join the project at the very beginning" Elisa picks up: "My idea of prog is somehow more vintage, more typical 70's Italian style. After various experiments on arrangements and sounds, I went to Karl's studio to record most of the keyboards, where we found the right balance".Connecting with strangers, and expanding circles of mutual friends became the pattern for Vly. Karl next recruited experienced bass player Chris Heilmann who worked together previously in Crippled Black Phoenix. Chris provided a solid backbone with a more classic rock attitude.Demata doesn't hold back when talking about Sweden-based musician Mattias Olsson. "He is simply a genius. And he's never predictable as a drummer. Mattias also contributed some vintage keys and odd analog noises, which have a definitive effect on the bands sound. A common friend described him as a 'lateral thinker', and I can't think of a better way to describe him."Vly makes good on the futuristic dreams of the late 1990's, when promises of international recording sessions via the Internet excited incredulous musicians. Now that it's a reality (thanks to Dropbox and Skype), the method may be less glamorously sci-fi than one had hoped; still, they get the job done."I always disliked the cliches about music as a universal language, and more recently about the Internet bringing people together", explains Keith. "I'm even more uncomfortable with those sentiments now, since Vly proved them true".Vly's debut album, I / (Time) is available on the Laser's Edge imprint September 18, 2015. It's engineered and produced by Karl Demata, with additional production by Keith Gladysz and Mattias Olsen, and audiophile mastering by Bob Katz.VLY is:Keith Gladysz (Diet Kong, Typical Reptiles) - Vocals.Karl Demata (ex-Crippled Black Phoenix, Karl Demata Band) - Guitars, synths, programming.Elisa Montaldo (Il Tempio Delle Clessidre) - keyboards and synths.Chris Heilmann (ex-Crippled Black Phoenix, Bernie Torme', Shark Island) – Bass.Mattias Olsson (ex-Änglagård. White Willow, Necromonkey) - Drums & keyboard 
    $13.00
  • Second album from this California based prog metal band with ties to Redemption. The Tragedy Of Innocence is a far more mature and developed release than their debut. It's a conceptual work dealing with a very heavy subject - Valerie Quirarte (wife of drummer Chris) and her experience with child abuse. The music is a reflection of the story - its darker and more intense. All in all Prymary are a progmetal band. You can expect some serious complex arrangements and stand out playing. Kudos to the band for tackling a difficult subject and also jumping up to the next level musically. Recommended.
    $2.00
  • They don't come as often as we'd like but a new Vanden Plas album is almost a guaranteed success.  Chronicles Of The Immortals may well be their best effort yet.  It sounds like Vanden Plas that we know and love but scaled up.  The band collaborated with noted German author Wolfgang Holbein to create a rock opera.  After a series of live performances the band hit the studio and shaped it into the first half of a duology.  Highly recommended."Four years after the release of The Seraphic Clockwork, German progressive metallers Vanden Plas are back with their seventh full-length Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld. Known for creating highly detailed conceptual albums, in 2012 the band teamed up with Germany’s one of the biggest selling authors Wolfgang Hohlbein to create a rock opera for the stage based on his The Chronicle of the Immortals series of novels. The resulting rock musical named Bloodnight ended up having 25 sold-our performances during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.The next challenge for Andy Kuntz and Vanden Plas was to adapt the theatre musical to the Vanden Plas standards and produce an album comprised of the first act of Bloodnight. Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld – Path 1 is a full title of the record that includes ten songs. The release of Path 2, the final part of the story will be released early in 2015.Musically speaking, since the release of their debut Colour Temple Vanden Plas continued to mature and improve – eventually hitting the top with 2006′s Christ 0. However, Netherworld proves to be the band’s most demanding release. In most cases, the problem with conceptual albums is that the music suffers the lack of quality on behalf of the actual story or opposite, but Vanden Plas relying on experience forged a record that possibly may serve as a light of hope for progressive metal in 2014.One of the biggest differences between this one and the previous Vanden Plas efforts lies exactly in the theatrical atmosphere Netherworld brings. Although it can be said that the visual factor is on par with music on almost every Vanden Plas album, it’s Netherworld that stands out for the balance between the two. Heavily rooted in the progressive metal genre with plenty of melodic lines on top of it, the whole story is dependant to Kuntz‘s interpretation and singing.The album flows as a single song, although it’s divided into ten songs (visions) what ultimately brings to mind that these ten titles are there just to separate the distinctive parts or moods of the whole story. These parts are pretty well balanced, the story dynamic follows the music. And what is perhaps most important for a progressive metal album today – it incorporates a number of different elements.Three crucial segments for a Vanden Plas album are strong melodic side, progressive metal and conceptual story. And these three segments are present on Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld. In which measure, time will be the best judge." - Prog-sphere.com
    $13.00
  • To say this album is monumental would be an understatement.  Jon Anderson has finally made the Yes album that we've all been waiting for the band to record for the past 40 years and never seemed to get around to it.My understanding is that the germ of the collaboration between Roine Stolt and Jon Anderson began when they met on one of the mega-concert cruises.  Anderson and Stolt have been bouncing material back and forth since then and Roine pulled it together into something amazingly cohesive.  Ex-Yes keyboardist Tom Brislin is on board, as are many of the members of Flower Kings and Karmakanic: Jonas Reingold, Michael Stolt, Lalle Larsson, Felix Lehrmann.  Daniel Gildenlow and Nad Sylvan contribute backing vocals.The album consists of 4 epic length tracks.  The vibe, the feel, the soul feels like Yes.  Some people say this sounds like The Flower Kings with Jon Anderson singing.  I don't hear it that way.  To me this has the DNA of Going For The One and Tales From Topographic Oceans.  Is there some Flower Kings feel here?  Sure - after all if there was no Yes there probably wouldn't be a Flower Kings.Roine is a fabulous guitarist.  While he doesn't try to mimic Steve Howe's tone or style he does use a parallel array of guitars.Plain and simple...this is the Yes album you've been craving for decades.  Easily the prog rock album of the year.  I'm simply blown away.  BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • "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
  • " "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
    $23.00
  • I can't remember a buzz on a band's debut since Circus Maximus.  Perhaps due to the album being released in Japan a year ago and its unavailability elsewhere, maybe because they are lined up to play ProgPowerUSA.  Whatever the reason the album finally gets a wide debut and it was worth the wait.  Damnation Angels is a British symphonic metal band fronted by a Norwegian singer.  He goes by the name PelleK and was a contestant on Norway's version of X Factor.  The band's stock in trade is epic sounding metal that pays a huge debt to Kamelot.  The instrumental passages take on the grandeur and scope of Nightwish.  PelleK does a sold job out front - he's obviously listened to a Khan quite a bit.  Highly recommended.
    $14.00