Jazz

"Since their founding in the late 1990s, The Claudia Quintet has walked a unique path in contemporary jazz.

$15.00
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The Claudia Quintet is proof positive that the pessimists were wrong: jazz is not dead, despite being embalmed by major labels and confined by some musicians to dead ends.

$13.00
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Previously unreleased album recorded by legendary sax player John Surman back in 1969. This Cuneiform discovery features John Taylor on electric piano, Brian Odgers on electric bass and Soft Machine drummer John Marshall.

$15.00
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Anglo American, the 2nd retrospective of the late saxist Gary Windo's work to appear on Cuneiform, was compiled by Michael King and features liner notes by Pam Windo, as well as rare photos supplied by her.

$13.00
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South African pianist and composer Chris McGregor led racially mixed Blue Notes in South Africa in the early 1960's. But touring and performing proved difficult, and tiring of continuous government harassment, in 1964 McGregor and the bands core members left their South African homeland.

$18.00
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Interesting new quartet from Italy. The lineup consists of guitar, bass, vibes, and drums with a healthy dose of electronics. El Topo's music would best be categorized as space jazz but there are lots of other influences that crop up.

$ 10.80
$ 18.00
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Category:
Fusion/Jazz
$15.00
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Many of you may be unfamilar with Tomasz Stanko, who may well be the greatest living jazz trumpet player in the world.

$ 9.00
$ 15.00
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"Pat Metheny once described himself as "basically an Ornette Colemanstyle free player," meaning, I gather, someone who plays in a melodic style free of harmonic margins.

$11.00
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"On this strong 1976 date, Tomasz Stanko's rich, forlorn trumpet sound is placed in a more rhythmic jazz setting than usual.

$ 6.60
$ 11.00
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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
  • Thirty nine years after the release of their debut album, a reconstituted version of Alphataurus has formed to record their sophomore album...and they nailed it.  Guitar sounds are a bit on the modern side but the keys are the deal.  Soaring synth lines and organ solos dominate.  Five long intense tracks that sound like they fell out of the Wayback Machine.  Comes housed in a mini-lp sleeve with stunning wrap around artwork by Adriano Marangoni, the same artist that did that incredible triple gatefold back in the day.  Highly recommended to fans or Rock Progressivo Italiano.
    $16.00
  • "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
  • 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
  • Budget priced new live album from fine German melodic prog metal band. Special guest Patrick Rondat featured on Rainmaker.
    $7.00
  • 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
  • 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
  • Brilliant double live set clearly demonstrates that Mr. Hackett can still bring the thunder to the stage. The set was drawn from shows in Paris, London, and New York during the 2009/2010 tour. With a great line up and a set list that digss into his solo career as well as Genesis gems, this is impossible to pass up. Simply awesome!
    $12.00
  • The third album from Haken once again demonstrates why they are at the forefront of the progressive metal scene.  The first two albums Aquarius and Visions are quite different.  Aquarius is a much quirkier album - lots of twists and turns that kept you off balance through out.  It had more of a prog rock feel and some real oddball approaches that resulted in some reviewers referring to it as circus meteal.  Visions was quite different.  It was much more linear and clearly defined in terms of content.  It was a prog metal album and wonderful one at that.The Mountain is the first release for the band's new home at Inside Out.  The direction of the band takes a bit of a u-turn.  The music falls somewhere in between the first two.  There is a quirky, prog rock vibe but you get the heaviness and complexity of prog metal.  One particular track I keep going back to is "Cockroach King" which essentially pays homage to Gentle Giant's counterpoint vocals.  Regardless of which direction you preferred, The Mountain has enough diversity to go please everyone.If you want to keep track of where progressive metal is headed then climb the mountain - this is where its at.  Highly recommended.US jewel box edition with the same two bonus tracks included on the import digipak.
    $12.00
  • Let me preface my observations of the CTTE remix by saying that I don’t put these classic albums on a pedestal.  If they can be sonically improved while remaining faithful to the original mix and maintaining musicality and the emotional content then I’m all for it.  In general I liked what Steven Wilson did with the King Crimson catalog.  I was particularly impressed by his reconstruction and resurrection of Lizard.  When I heard he was tackling the Yes catalog I was hopeful because if there was ever a band that could use some sonic wizardry its Yes.  Eddy Offord was never able to bring the magic to their mixes that he was able to give to ELP.So how did Steven Wilson do with CTTE?  I can only use one word to describe the new mix: “transformative”.  CTTE was an album cobbled together from various bits and pieces.  Its widely acknowledged to be the band’s best album (its certainly my opinion) but in terms of sonics it fell victim to the “too many cooks” syndrome.  The original mix was a bit of a mess.  Its all changed now.The one thing that is immediately apparent is the foundation provided by Chris Squire’s bass.  It reaches the pits of hell and if Mr. Wilson is going to take this approach with TFTO and Relayer he’s got my vote.  In general there is a veil of schmutz that has been wiped away.  All the instruments have more clarity and focus in the soundstage.  “I Get Up I Get Down” was chilling.  I found the soundstage consistently extended beyond the boundaries of my speakers.  The mix is warm, involving and there is a balance among the instruments that I found lacking in the original mix - primarily because of Squire’s bass being given a shot of adrenaline.  Jaw dropping stuff.  The bonus track of “America” had exceptional, dare I say audiophile sound.So the obvious question is - what sounds better - this mix or the SACD?  I dunno.  I can’t find my bloody SACD to compare…but here is my memory of the SACD.  When I got it I played it through.  It didn’t overwhelm me or disappoint me.  My thought was “its fine...it is what it is - this is the best it will ever sound in the digital domain”.  I was wrong.  BUY OR DIE!  FORMAT: 1 x CD/1 x Blu-RayCD:1  Close to the Edge2  And You And I3  Siberian KhatruBonus Tracks:4  America5  Close to the EdgeBlu-Ray:Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio– Album mixed in 5.1 Surround– New Album mix– Original Album  mix (flat transfer)– New Album mix (instrumental version)– America original, new & instrumental stereo mixes & 5.1 Surround + further audio extras some exclusive to Blu-Ray edition• Close to the Edge is the first in a series of remixed & expanded Yes Classics• The classic album has been mixed for 5.1 Surround Sound from the original studio masters by Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) & is fully approved by Yes.• CD features a completely new stereo album mix by Steven Wilson• CD also features a new mix of America• CD also features an early mix/assembly of Close to the Edge• Blu-Ray features 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround (24bit/96khz) mixed from the original multi-channel recordings.• Blu-Ray features the new stereo album mix in DTS-HD Master Audio (24bit/96khz).• Blu-Ray also features the original album mix & America in a DTS-HD Master Audio flat transfers from the original master tape source. (24bit/192khz)• Blu-Ray exclusively features instrumental versions of all new mixes in DTS-HD Master Audio stereo (24bit/96khz).• Blu-Ray also exclusively features a needle-drop of an original UK vinyl A1/B1 pressing transferred in 24bit/96khz audio.• Numerous audio extras appear in high-resolution stereo including single edits & studio run throughs of album tracks• Original artwork by Roger Dean who has also overseen the artwork for this new edition• Presented as a mini vinyl replica gatefold card sleeve with booklet containing new sleeve notes, rare photos & archive material.“Close to the Edge” is the first in a series of expanded Yes editions including 5.1 Surround mixes, new stereo mixes & High-Resolution stereo mixes of the original music along with a wealth of extra material. Acclaimed musician/producer Steven Wilson has produced the new mixes with the approval of the band, while Roger Dean reprises his role as art director/designer of the newly issued edition, making this the definitive edition of the album.When Yes entered the studio with Eddie Offord to record the band’s fifth studio album in mid-1972, their second with this line-up, the band was on something of a roll. “Fragile”, the band’s previous album, had taken Yes to a new level of international popularity with Top Ten chart placement on both sides of the Atlantic & yielding a hit single in the USA with ‘Roundabout’. The band was now established in the major music markets to an extent that was, perhaps, unexpected given the complexity of the music Yes performed. But with that popularity came a confidence that the expansive material of the two previous albums could be taken a stage further with the new recording. Rather than consolidating, Yes chose to innovate.Recorded during lengthy sessions at London’s Advision Studios, “Close to the Edge” is that rarity in recorded music, the sound of a band & its individual members writing, playing and recording at the peak of their collective abilities. The album was issued in Autumn 1972 reaching chart highs & platinum sales status of  4 in the UK, 3 in the USA & 1 in Holland, though such statistics only hint at the worldwide popularity of the album over a period of more than four decades. The three pieces of music, the title track which spanned the entire first side of the vinyl album with ‘And You And I’ & ‘Siberian Khatru’ on side two, have remained concert favourites since release, with the 2013 Yes line-up currently in the middle of a world tour stretching into the middle of next year that sees the album performed in its entirety.The album remains the favourite among many of the band’s legion of fans, a defining recording both for the band & for the progressive rock movement. It is also one of the most successful British rock albums ever released.Since this release of “Close to the Edge” was confirmed, the various websites dedicated to Yes, Progressive rock & high-resolution audio have been very active with discussions among fans keen to hear the new mixes & the existing material in its purest audio presentation. 
    $21.00
  • "You have to give it to them… Vanden Plas certainly have a sense for the dramatic, grandiose, the literary, the overblown, the theatrical… and then some!As its title suggests, ‘Chronicles Of The Immortals - Netherworld II’ is the second part of a symbiosis the Teutonic progsters have formed with collaboration with the multi-million selling German author Wolfgang Hohlbein, whose duotych of novels of the same name Vanden Plas frontman Andy Kuntz helped to bring to musical life in a series of sold-out theatrical performances during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Subsequently, Kuntz led his band on the ambitious journey of bringing the novels to a wider musical audience with two thematic CDs.Now, I’m going to be brutally honest here and admit that I’m familiar with neither the novels in question, or the first part of their musical accompaniment… from what I can gather, however both left the hero of the story - the immortal Andrej Delãny – facing up to the perfidious plans of the dark “Godmaker”, while the second half of the story sees its hero delivered into a further darkness from which his own sense of self-awareness sees him eventually emerge into the light of his own salvation… or something like that!Unfamiliarity with the literary and lyrical background to this album (as well its musical predecessor) initially made this a difficult listen, as I struggled to comprehend the underlying thematic in each regard. However, as it progresses, it possesses a dark and dreamy entrancement, which grabs you in its poetic embrace and caresses you with its strange, extremely enigmatic charm, leading you deep into an opus of truly epic proportions.Kuntz’ vocal is outstanding. His depth and warmth possesses a dark soulfulness which enchants and hypnotizes, drawing the listener into the layers of the musical interpretations of his lyrics. Günter Werno’s keyboards soar and swell, while at the same time dropping diplomatically into the background to make way for Stephan Lill’s sublime guitar work, which crunches and grinds on the album’s denser moments as much as it seers its layered harmonics, which build the layers of each song to their logical conclusion.‘Chronicles…’ drives its story forward with the quality and zest of a good novel. A knowledge of the latter work on which it is based perhaps would aid a better understanding of its inherent message and motive, but the lack of same does not denigrate from the quality of the listening experience, which is an ultimately rewarding and satisfying one." - Uber Rock
    $15.00
  • In Crescendo is the fourth studio album from this Italian progressive band.  While originally working in a purely metal direction, the band has expanded the scope of their sound to encompass elements of progressive rock as well.  There is a very strong atmospheric component similar to Riverside, Porcupine Tree, and Pink Floyd but the heavier, metallic side of Opeth and Dream Theater is clearly present as well.Over the past two years Kingcrow has expanded their fan base with a European tour in support of Redemption and Jon Oliva as well as appearances at ProgPower Europe and ProgPower USA.  An announcement about 2013 US tour dates is imminent. 
    $13.00
  • 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
  • "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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