AOR

"The Murder Of My Sweet didn't waste much time getting into the studio after their third album Beth Out Of Hell. The band returns with their fourth albums, Echoes Of The Aftermath, a mere 18 months later. That might be a new record for founder, drummer, and producer Daniel Flores.

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Remastered with 5 bonus tracks.

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"Unlike many of their pop-metal contemporaries, Night Ranger's early work has aged quite well, and this excellent 1982 debut is a well-kept secret of the genre.

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"Night Ranger's second album Midnight Madness may not have been as consistent as their debut, but it did spawn the band's biggest hit, "Sister Christian." While it served as their commercial breakthrough, the infamous power ballad also relegated the group to "one-hit wonder" status while fueling

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"Frontiers managed to give Journey four Top 40 hits, with "After the Fall" and "Send Her My Love" both reaching number 23, "Faithfully" at number 12, and "Separate Ways" peaking at number eight -- the same amount that 1981's Escape brandished.

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Category:
AOR

"With the platinum triumph of Infinity still ringing in their ears like coins in a slot machine, Journey was now committed to completing their transformation from jazz fusion/prog rock mavens into arena rock superstars with their fifth album, 1979's Evolution.

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Remastered with 4 bonus tracks.

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"Pearl Aday has arrived! Pearl is the daughter of rock ‘n’ roll legend Meat Loaf and the wife of Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian. Sure they are high profile names, but she has stepped out on her own to build her own impressive resume.

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"Nordic Union is a collaboration between singer Ronnie Atkins of the legendary Danish band Pretty Maids and Erik Martensson of Eclipse and W.E.T. Together they have created some musical magic, which, while definitely hard rocking, is more melodic compared to what Ronnie does In Pretty Maids.

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Category:
AOR

"This is the second release from Find Me, a project headed up by vocalist Robbie LaBlanc (of Blanc Faces) and Swedish drummer/producer Daniel Flores.  The press release boasts that Find Me is ‘another AOR behemoth’ and that Dark Angel is a ‘delightful and massive melodic rock album chock full of

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  • “Let us begin where it all began...”Progressive rock band Big Big Train return with Folklore, their first full-length studio album since the award winning English Electric. Folklore contains nine new songs with a total running time of 68 minutes.Despite the album title, Folklore is by no means a collection of traditional-sounding folk music pieces. On Folklore, Big Big Train are reimagining and breathing new life into traditional themes, and also creating a few new ones along the way. The crafts of songwriting and storytelling beat strongly at the heart of the Big Big Train and inform every track on the new album.Folklore features the same line up (eight piece band and brass quintet) that performed three sell out shows at Kings Place in London last summer, with the addition of a string quartet. The experience of bringing this complex music to the concert stage has honed the band’s sound, making Folklore a focussed and exciting listening experience. All the hallmarks of the Big Big Train sound can be found here: powerful and emotional vocal delivery, and dramatic extended song arrangements which showcase the musical ability within the band.Big Big Train proudly present Folklore: an epic progressive rock tour de force.“Heigh-ho, so we go. We pass it on, we hand it down-o...”Folklore Ancient stories told by our ancestors around the camp re, being passed down from generation to generation. The passage of time sees the coming of written language and electronic communication, but still we tell our stories and pass them on.London Plane Once upon a time, a great tree took root on a river bank, and watched through the years as a city grew around it.Along The Ridgeway A journey along an ancient pathway, where legends are reborn.Salisbury Giant Big Big Train tell the true story of a medieval giant.The Transit Of Venus Across The Sun When the astronomer lost the love of his life, he set a course for the stars. Inspired by the much-loved British TV astronomer and educationalist, Patrick Moore.Wassail The old ways get a 21st century reboot in this pagan- inspired progressive-folk groove. The title track from Big Big Train’s Wassail EP, it was nominated in the “Anthem” category at the 2015 Progressive Music Awards.Winkie A ripping action adventure story about a true life war heroine, the  rst to receive the Dickin medal in honour of her achievement. To the best of our knowledge, this is the  rst prog epic about a pigeon...Brooklands John Cobb, racing driver, lived life at high speed on the racing line. Time passes, but the ageing driver yearns for one more adrenaline  lled lap of the track... Cobb died in 1952 while attempting the world water speed record at Loch Ness.Telling The Bees Traditionally, bees were told of births, deaths and marriages within the bee-keeper’s family, as it was believed that otherwise they would leave the hive. When his father is killed in the First World War, a young boy takes on this responsibility, grows up to become a man,  nds love and starts his own family. “The bees are told... and we carry on...”.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Big Big Train: BackgroundDavid Longdon: vocals and  ute; Rachel Hall: violin; Dave Gregory: guitars; Rikard Sjöblom: guitars and keyboards; Danny Manners: keyboards; Andy Poole: guitars and keyboards; Greg Spawton: bass; Nick D’Virgilio: drumsFormed in Bournemouth, UK, in 1990 by Greg Spawton and Andy Poole, Big Big Train has charted an independent course through the British progressive rock scene, slowly developing a richly arranged blend of electric and acoustic instruments that mixes prog, rock, post-rock, folk and classical in uences. 2009’s The Underfall Yard was the band’s  rst album to feature the powerful vocals of David Longdon, alongside the guitar of Dave Gregory (XTC) and the drums of Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard), since when critical and public acclaim for the band has grown rapidly.The two-volume English Electric (2012-13) further developed Big Big Train’s favourite themes of English history, industry and landscape, and the band won the Prog magazine Breakthrough award in 2013. The following year, the Classic Rock Society awardedBig Big Train their Best Band and Best Track awards, while David Longdon won Best Male Vocalist, a feat he repeated this year.After 17 years as a studio-only outfit, Big Big Train returned to the stage in 2015 with three London performances which topped the Prog magazine Readers’ Poll for Best Event, with several band members also featuring in the instrument sections of the poll. The band has just released Stone & Steel, a Blu-ray featuring songs from the London gigs along with performances recorded in 2014 at Real World Studios. 
    $12.00
  • Edensong is a progressive rock quintet from New York City.  The band's self-released 2008 debut "The Fruit Fallen" was hailed as a "masterpiece" by critics, and helped to pave the way for live shows and notable festival appearances throughout North America.At over 70 minutes of new music, their 2016 followup, "Years in the Garden of Years" is even more ambitious than it's predecessor, and will be sure to appeal to fans of both classic progressive rock and metal.  The concept album features an extended song cycle on themes of time, each song a different scale and perspective.  The melodies are more memorable, the riffs more powerful, the flute playing more inventive and propulsive.  The songs prominently feature immersive new textures, from lush keyboard and orchestral arrangements to esoteric percussion from around the world, such as hang drum and Balinese gamelan.   "Years in the Garden of Years" is mastered with audiophile precision by Grammy winning engineer Bob Katz, and the CD release features stunning original cover art and booklet illustrations from beloved surrealist painter Dan May. 
    $13.00
  • Guitarist/vocalist Clay Withrow is the heart and soul behind Vangough.  He's made some fine albums in the past but this is clearly his best as you can tell that he's exerting more of his own vision.  The previous albums were fine slices of progressive metal, bu they were clearly influenced heavily by Pain Of Salvation.  While there is some of that early PoS feel, Between The Madness has more of Clay than Daniel.  Its very angst driven music - from the vocals to the grinding guitar solos.  This is one pissed off band.  Its a non-stop prog metal roller coaster ride.  BUY OR DIE!"Over the last two full-length albums leading up to this, the band’s most important release, one thing is strikingly clear: Vangough has been eating their Wheaties. Whereas the last album couldn't find its center of gravity despite merits and high replay value, "Between The Madness" bridges the gap between Vangough's left brain and right brain. Moreover, the band feels much more balanced with the addition of drummer Kyle Haws. Further, it sounds like mastermind Clay Withrow had pushed himself beyond his limits to expand the Vangough tone palate.On the “Acoustic Scars” EP, Withrow developed a vocal technique that finds full maturation on "Between The Madness:” the rage-sing. Almost a yell, but neither a scream nor a simple vocal fry and free of any pitch interference, Withrow's rage-sing makes the lyrical intent as clear as it can be. The album offers bile to many parties, lyrically, and puts the listener behind a sometimes uncomfortable but necessary first-person perspective: any other perspective simply would not do justice to the intent. Vangough has always been more effective at conveying feelings than telling stories, but never before had the songs had such a natural novel-like flow to them. All the while, Withrow peppers his versatile clean singing with elaborate layers of harmony and polyphony, making for subtly different listening experiences each time.The overall sound hasn't drastically changed, and even shows some musical nods to prior songs. In "Vaudeville Nation," a scathing condemnation of a track, a clever link is established with "Mannikin Parade" around 4:28. The main melody of the latter is re-introduced on guitars in a straight-played manner. Later in the song, a similar "Mannikin Parade" vocal melody emerges in the line "...and burn the circus to the ground," and up through the yell following it. Further, continuing the storyline started with "Road To Blighttown" on the “Acoustic Scars” EP, "Depths of Blighttown" adds a fitting dark and ominous chapter to the story.The added input from Haws and bassist Jeren Martin have made the songs seem more logical, acting as balancing forces. The drumming style of Haws is noticeably organized, nuanced, and thought-out and could be accurately categorized as a blend of the styles of Lamb of God's Chris Adler, Opeth-era Martin Lopez, and Pain of Salvation-era Johan Langell. The mixing job by Sterling Winfield is a stunning step forward for the band as well, and the drum sound is particularly remarkable for its bright, punchy, but balanced character. Lead guitarist Jay Gleason makes several shred-tastic appearances to accentuate the technicality of Vangough's instrumentation, while Justus Johnston and Jose Palacios make appearances on strings to further amplify the feeling of the songs and add a superb creep factor touching on Resident Evil levels at times.No song feels out of place or unessential, with "Infestation," "Schizophrenia," "Vaudeville Nation," "Useless," and "Corporatocracy" as highlights. The dynamic growth between “Kingdom of Ruin” and “Between The Madness” makes this album out to be Vangough's “Blackwater Park,” what many will no doubt cite as the band’s seminal record. Put simply, there has never been a better time to jump off of whatever progressive metal train you've been on and ride with Vangough. "Into the dark I take you," Withrow jabs at us. Make sure your seatbelts are securely fastened." - Metal Underground
    $11.00
  • "John Mitchell is a man with a rich musical heritage and history - from musician and vocalist, to songwriter and producer. So it’s no great surprise to find him as the mastermind behind a new project called Lonely Robot. The eponymous forthcoming album is the first time he has done something of this nature, and he's loved every minute of making it.“I can honestly say it's the most fun I've ever had in the studio. That's not to belittle anything I've done before but with this, I can wake up in the morning with a song idea in my head, write it and have it recorded by the evening.”Mitchell had long thought about embarking on a project like this, and when he found a break in his schedule due to plans for the next It Bites album being delayed, he finally took the opportunity.“People had suggested I do an album like this for a long time, but I procrastinated so much that in the end, it took Thomas Waber from InsideOut to push me into doing this.“With Lonely Robot, I have a clean slate and that's very exciting, because nobody expects anything in particular. It reminds me a lot of how things were when the Kino album [2005's ‘Picture’] was done, in that no-one knew what would come out of it. Musically, the Lonely Robot album is very proggy, but more about atmosphere than technical expertise. It reminds me in places of Kino and Frost*, but stands apart from both.”There are 11 songs in total, with the versatile Mitchell handling much of the instrumental performance and vocals himself. But he also lined up some intriguing musical talents to guest on it.“Craig Blundell does all the drums. I mapped out all the parts for him in advance, but he brought a lot of his personality to the songs.”Marillion vocalist Steve 'H' Hogarth performs on two songs, but not in his accustomed role. “He does backing vocals, yes. But his main contribution is playing the piano, which he does with such a delicate feel.“Throughout, what I wanted to do was to take the guests outside of what they're usually known for. For example, Kim Seviour from Touchstone sings on one track called ‘Oubliette’, and I got her to do it at the lower end of her vocal register, which she doesn’t normally get to use.”There are two other acclaimed singers featured on the album, the first being Heather Findlay.“We duet on a song entitled ‘Why Do We Stay’, which was actually the first one I wrote for the album. Heather is usually known for her folk style of singing but for this song, I gave her the brief of taking a more Kate Bush approach - breathy and emotive.”Perhaps a surprise inclusion on the album is Go West lead singer Peter Cox.“When you think of Peter, you immediately think of Eighties pop, don't you? But I felt his dusty baritone would suit my track ‘The Boy in the Radio’ perfectly.”Still on the 1980s pop trail, John also asked Nik Kershaw to contribute a guitar solo for the track ‘Humans Being’, as he’s long been a fan of his style. John also couldn’t resist asking good friend and keyboard player Jem Godfrey of Frost* fame to add his unique musical treatment to two tracks, including the title ’Lonely Robot’, with Nick Beggs playing bass and his signature Chapman Stick on a few other songs.There's one more significant contribution to the album. And that comes from the narration provided by renowned English actor Lee Ingleby.“He's one of Britain’s finest character actors right now. He was in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Master And Commander, as well as having the lead role in the recent BBC TV series ‘Our Zoo’. What I asked him to do was to provide motifs at certain key points in the album, to help to link everything together to the overall album theme.“The concept is about the way in which some ancient civilisations – for instance, the Mayans, the Egyptians and the Chinese – had technology way beyond what they should have had at the time. And I'm talking about the millennium up to 1000AD. It’s as if some people had been transplanted onto the planet from another world and time.”Mitchell also put a lot of thought into the overall project name. Lonely Robot isn't just the juxtaposition of two disparate words.“It represents the human condition. I'm not suggesting that human beings behave like robots, but so many people lead regimented lives and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not realise or know how to get out of it.”Lonely Robot is certainly the soundtrack of John Mitchell's prolific imagination coming to life.“What's the album like? Like nothing I've ever done before!”"
    $13.00
  • Hardbound mediabook edition with one bonus track."I haven't had anything similar on my musical plate for a while, so Gazpacho's eighth album Demon was an interesting, beautifully surprising and absolutely brilliant variation. Again Gazpacho mixes progressive sounds with electronic elements and folk instrumentation with the addition of dynamic riffing and amazing vocals. The outcome is a unique sound that is quite inimitable and rare to find. How much you enjoy the new record will mainly depend on how you respond to this incredible mix and the singing style used by the vocalist. Anyway Gazpacho rules, especially at night.I'm a great fan of these guys and for those of you that still don't know who they are, Gazpacho is a band formed in Oslo, Norway in 1996 by childhood friends, Jon-Arne Vilbo and Thomas Andersen, along with Jan-Henrik Ohme - later joined by Mikael Krømer, Lars Erik Asp and Kristian Torp; they released their debut album Bravo in 2003.Demon, the upcoming record, is a concept album based on the true story of a manuscript found in an apartment in Prague where the writer, a previous resident, had detailed his chase of an evil, “The Demon”. Demon is for sure full of emotion and humanity and the way the Norwegian band reproduces in music the diabolical story and the psychosis of the protagonist is wonderful.The story is told in four parts and it starts with 'I've been walking – part 1' and it couldn't start in a better low-key fashion way. There’s something disarmingly powerful about loud vocals from Jahn Henrik Ohme that add incredible depth to a song. The intermittent piano notes are just perfect and the delicate violin sound is like a nice shade of color you don't notice on painting but that painting wouldn't be the same without it. A great bonus.The second part of 'I've been walking' – that is the third track of the album – starts exactly where the first movement of the piece ends but adding a dark shadow to the overall atmosphere. There are still vocals but now are slower and they mix perfectly with the other instruments. The bass is gorgeous and the way the song turns into a more ambient and atmospherical dimension is great. It's such a damn good track and together, 'I've been walking' parts I and II, might be the best tunes that Gazpacho has ever written.The mix of sounds of the opening track changes completely in 'The Wizard of Altai Mountain' becoming electronic in the first part of the track and turning into a sort of gipsy or Yiddish sound in the second half. We are all crossing lands pursuing the demon.The story ends with 'Death Room' and the motifs of the 'The Wizard of Altai Mountain' come back like creating a circle with that song. Oriental sound, progressive rock and folk are all mixed together and the resulting fusion sound is incredible. I rarely make direct comparison among artists but this time I cannot avoid to think of Radiohead's music mixed with folk elements to create an intricate yet beautifully original tone. Other times they make me think of the Scandinavian prog-rock band Airbag but again Gazpacho find their way to be definitely unique.The story ends here and Demon too, a captivating and intriguing album that is absolutely brilliant. I like the way it flows song by song and the variety of sounds blended in it. Such experimentalism is the proof that the Norwegian guys are really talented and they deserve to be considered one of the best progressive rock bands on the scene today.Demon is an album that requires time and patience to be understood and to gain the listener's estimation and it will reward open minded audience. Play it in the dark to fully experience its great music." - Echoes And Dust
    $13.00
  • "Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy represent two of the most prolific careers in the Prog mainstream over the last 20+ years. In that time, they have been a part of more albums than many bands’ entire catalogs combined, a considerable amount of them regarded as Prog classics; Neal on ‘The Light’ and ‘Snow’ with Spock’s Beard, Mike with Dream Theater on Scenes From A Memory’ and ‘Images and Words’ and of course together on ‘Bridge Across Forever’ and ‘The Whirlwind’ with Transatlantic, not to mention Neal’s solo albums and the dozens of other albums they released. So when Mike Portnoy says this latest album might be the best album of his career, that is certainly a statement not to take lightly.  It also places immense pressure on the album. Most albums do not live up to such praise and usually end up disappointing. However, after many listens, it is fair to say, that with ‘The Similitude of a Dream’ the hype is for real.The album is based on the book ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream’ written by John Bunyan.  The story, described as set in a dream, follows a lead character named Christian, who is tormented by spiritual anguish and told he must leave the City of Destruction to find salvation in the Celestial City.  There is much more to the story, of course, and the part of the story portrayed in this album represents just a small portion of the book.  Is it spiritual?  Yes.  But relative to prior Neal Morse releases, this album is absolutely accessible and, done in the guise of an allegory, does not come off preachy in the least.  In fact, for anyone paying attention to the last few Neal Morse outings, this has been the case for some time now.Morse has produced a fair share of concept albums, including 5 in a row from the time he made Snow with Spock’s Beard through his first 4 solo albums.  He had largely stepped away from concept albums with his more recent work, 2012’s ‘Momentum’ and 2015’s ‘The Grand Experiment’. While all of Neal’s solo albums have been recorded with Mike Portnoy and bassist Randy George, ‘The Grand Experiment’ was the first album released by the Neal Morse Band, with guitarist Eric Gillette and keyboardist Bill Hubauer on board as full-time members, not only as performers, but as songwriters.  The result of this new 5-piece added a boost to the songwriting and overall sound that Morse had become known for.  Gillette and Hubauer are, on top of being stellar musicians (each plays practically every instrument), both phenomenal singers and Morse was smart to have them showcase those talents on the last album.  With this new album, they all take everything up a notch and then some. This is now a band in the truest sense of the word.The flaw in most double or concept albums is that they usually can be and probably should be condensed into one great album’s worth of music.  There are always one minute interludes that can be skipped over, too long and unnecessary intros, and songs that are not as good as some others.  Neal and the band avoid those pitfalls here, which is part of why this album is enjoyable. It is just a straight 100 minutes of music with no filler, no waste of time, nothing that makes you want to skip.  While there are all the signature Neal Morse moments, there are loads of new elements and styles that make this album sound fresh and revitalized.  Additionally, the production, courtesy of the always reliable Rich Mouser, and the performances by each member are impeccable.  Now let’s get to the music.(Skip to the last paragraph to avoid any spoilers)The album opens calmly with strings and Neal singing the album’s main melody “Long Day” setting the stage like any proper rock opera, before the bombastic “Overture” kicks things into high-gear.  There is so much contained in the opening instrumental, it is hard to absorb it all in one listen.  Only after you listen to the entire album, does the “Overture” become clearer.  From there we meet the character Christian, as he describes “The Dream”.  This is all a build-up to the one of the main full songs and the single from the album “City of Destruction”, a hard-hitting tour de-force, that is unlike anything Neal and the band have written before.  There are a few motifs that are repeated throughout the album, this song being one of them.  Neal’s ability to revisit and reinvent themes is his ace in the hole.  Few of his contemporaries possess this songwriting skill at this exemplary level, which is why many fail at the epic song or concept album.  Done with such precision, as it is here, demands attention from the listener and creates a more immersive listening experience.What comes next, beginning with “We Have Got to Go” is the equivalent to side 2 of The Beatles’ Abbey Road, with partial songs segueing into each other, keyboard and guitar solos interjected seemingly at will.  “Makes No Sense” introduces another one of the album’s themes and is also where Eric and Bill add a soaring element to the song as they reach new heights with their voices. Mike takes his turn at vocals with the rocker “Draw the Line” which leads in to the instrumental “The Slough” before concluding this section of the album with “Back to the City.”One of the surprises on the album and true highlights is the Beatle-esque “The Ways of a Fool”, where Bill Hubauer takes lead vocals.  The song is sheer pop brilliance and adds a new element to this core’s musical repertoire.  Eric Gillette reprises much of Disc 1 in “So Far Gone” before Neal closes out the first disc with the gospel “Breath of Angels”, a pure, emotionally charged Morse number.  Bill proves again, on this album, his ability to do practically anything and Eric continues his ascension up the guitar royalty ladder with stupendous soloing and tremendous vocal ability.Disc 2 starts with the rockin “Slave To Your Mind”, an explosive track with the band cutting loose, shifting through numerous time changes and solo breaks.  Mike again shows the power and creativity to play any style and keep things interesting and exciting.  Throughout much of Disc 2 there are more surprises stylistically, like the folky “Shortcut to Salvation” the bluesy “The Man in the Iron Cage”, the country-twang of “Freedom Song” and The Who-inspired “I’m Running”, which features a monster bass solo by Randy George.  All of these together, make as inventive a listen as one can remember with a Neal Morse album. Make no mistake, in between, there is still plenty of Moog and synth solos and Prog extravaganza to thrill the senses, but as you stick with this album, you begin to appreciate the incredible diversity contained in these 2 discs.The finale begins with “The Mask” which features a grand piano solo before changing into a dark, almost industrial reworking of “City of Destruction”. This precedes the track “Confrontation”, which is a climactic reprise of many other album themes and one of the best moments on the album.  The final instrumental “The Battle” is full-on Prog madness, with some of the group’s best soloing moments.  All this leads up to the epic final track, the quintessential Neal Morse ballad, “Broken Sky/Long Day (Reprise).  Not much to say here that will do justice to the ending, but kudos to Neal for allowing Eric to shine during the closeout moments on this track.  If you don’t get chills, you might need to check your pulse.  It all ends with Neal bringing it all home on a quiet note, just as the album began.All in all, this is quite an achievement by a group of musicians that didn’t need to improve upon already magnificent careers filled with incredible albums.  While its position atop any all-time lists will be up for debate, ‘The Similitude of a Dream’ does the impossible and exceeds all expectations.  It is absolutely a jaw-dropping release that will no doubt rank alongside the best albums by Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy, if not above them." - The Prog Report
    $18.00
  • 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
  • Arjen Lucassen's long awaited Ayreon project is a total blast.  Like some of the earlier Ayreon albums, it owes as much to prog rock as it does metal.  All the old school heroes like Emerson, Wakeman, Wetton get to strut their stuff showing a young stud like Rudess a thing or two.  As always Lucassen latches on to some of the best vocalists around and this one is no exception.  Highly recommended.PLEASE NOTE THERE WILL BE A VERY EXPENSIVE IMPORT "ART BOOK" EDITION FORTHCOMING."You know what the metal world needs more of? Musicals. I'm not saying that ironically either. Sure, we have plenty of prog bands putting out concept albums, but cool as these records many be, the story themselves are not the focus of the album. Ayreon mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen has resurrected his grandest of all projects to continue showing these folks how to tell an epic story the right way.With 01011001 the Ayreon story came to an end, or so we thought. Arjen instead decided to focus on projects like Star One, Guilt Machine, and his solo album Lost in the New Real. When he revealed not too long ago that he was working on a new project, it wasn't a surprise to discover it was new Ayreon, but I was still plenty excited.Lucassen said of the newest record, "It's not science fiction, but a human story set in a science context." So no aliens or battling emotions or any of that. So, in an attempt to better understand the story, I contacting him for the lyrics and much to my surprise, he sent them to me saying, "Oh yes, you need the lyrics, definitely." Holy hell, was he right. The story is indeed more grounded than previous records, but there are still layers to this beast.Fans of Ayreon should know what to expect here. The Theory of Everything has seven guest singers and each singer plays a part in the story. They are JB (Grand Magus) as the Teacher, Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) as the Mother, Michael Mills (Toehider) as the Father, Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) as the Prodigy, Marco Hietala (Nightwish) as the Rival, John Wetton (Asia/ex-King Crimson) as the Psychiatrist, and Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards) as the Girl.Of these singers, the most impressive is the relatively unknown Sara Squadrani. She performs on a large portion of the story and shines every time, especially on "Love and Envy". I was also surprised to be so enamored with the performance of Christina Scabbia. She's always had  a wonderful voice, but her performance in this record might be her finest. Her harmonies with Squadrani stand out particularly on "Mirror of Dreams". This isn't to say only the performances by the female singers are worth mentioning. Tommy Karevik's introduction in "The Prodigy's World" is one of the strongest moments on the album.Press_Photo_01Every Ayreon album comes an eclectic group of guest musicians. This round primarily consisted of guest keyboardists. Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes) handles a good portion of the record, while Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) both make excellent solo appearances on "Progressive Waves".Having listened to all of Lucassen's albums at least once, I can say The Theory of Everything is the most musically diverse offering he's had a hand in, perhaps with the exception of his solo record. This isn't as heavy as previous Ayreon titles, but it has its driving moments like "Collision" and the Dream Theather-esque "Frequency Modulation." The aforementioned "Love and Envy" is a slower introspective song, while "Diagnosis" is massive and a little cheesy, but so awesome. "Transformation" has a Middle Eastern feel to it, and  "The Eleventh Dimension" sounds like intergalactic renaissance faire music.Often times there are jumps in mood, genre, etc in the middle of a song. This is fairly typical for an Ayreon release; what isn't typical is that technically this record consists of only four songs. These four songs are each at least twenty-one minutes, but they are cut up into forty-two pieces (yes, that's a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference) .This is a fun record. It's a record that does require a time commitment. I'd say listeners should treat it as a proper musical or film in a theater. Try to experience it all in one sitting for the full effect. It's absolutely worth it." - Metal Injection
    $17.00
  • 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
  • "While Headspace probably known to most prog fans, All That You Fear Is Gone, their second album, is my first experience with the band. Headspace features some notable musicians from the UK prog world including vocalist Damian Wilson (Threshold, keyboard player Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Lee Pomeroy (It Bites, Steve Hackett), and guitarist Pete Rinaldi with new drummer Adam Falkner.All That You Fear Is Gone is a second part of trilogy with concept created by Wilson. Their first album I Am Anonymous had to do with the individual fitting into the world and it's various groups. This album deal with the individual sparring with and releasing himself for the hold of those same groups and institutions. Breaking free suggests also breaking free from your fears that they may have put upon you, and so the album title. Heady stuff from Headspace.My initial interest in Headspace comes from seeing vocalist Damian Wilson's name in the credits. I love his voice and vocal style. His work in Threshold is quite pleasing. He has this smooth melodic elegeance to his voice, but yet still conveys passion.As for the music within, there's definitely some creativity and variety, yet with echoes of classic prog from Yes to Genesis to Threshold to Hackett. Some things are heavier, like Kill You With Kindness which is thick with riffs, bass and drums, but still has a segue distilled to voice and acoustic guitar in the center. Conversely, The Element dials back most everything to minimalism: voice, light guitar, atmospheric synths. Similar is the short The Death Bell, where piano comes to the forefront with Wilson's voice. The title cut follows a similar motif, quiet, yet with even brighter piano aids Wilson's impassioned vocals.Alternatively, severals songs, like Secular Souls and The Science Within Us, the two longest songs here, work the juxtaposition of lightness and heaviness with more complexity, having moments and movements feature different elements. For example, within Secular Souls, before the midpoint the piano gets some attention. But after this, a strong bottom end takes over and the sound gets heavier, darker.Perhaps the most interesting song here is Polluted Alcohol. According to Wilson, it was a song that started one way, then came out differently. Mostly, this song is voice and guitar, and what's either a Dobro or steel guitar. At his this kind of Southern front porch blues feeling to it. One thing you will be convinced of upon listening to All That You Fear Is Gone is that this is definitely interesting progressive rock created by some very talented musicians. Recommended." - Danger Dog
    $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
    $14.00
  • 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
  • Big Big Train have ascended to the top echelon of progressive rock bands currently active.  They are easily the best band coming out of the UK - the fountainhead of all prog rock."Is there a nicer feeling than when you discover that one of your favourite bands is to return with new material much sooner than predicted and somewhat unexpectedly? There aren’t many better moments that’s for sure and Big Big Train are the architects of this great piece of news, offering us their tenth album ‘Grimspound’ less than 12 months on from the release of the utterly sensational ‘Folklore’.Long term readers will perhaps be familiar with that review, where I was quoted as saying that “‘Folklore’ is another amazing addition to the Big Big Train discography and is something all lovers of quality progressive rock should cherish and take to their hearts. I know that I have.”However, the feelings of levity and excitement about such a speedy a follow-up are, for me, tempered ever so slightly by a few more cautious thoughts. ‘Is it too early for more material?’, ‘has this album been hurried?’, ‘will the quality take a hit?’ You can see where I’m going with this. I worry that speed doesn’t always yield positive results and therefore, whilst I’m like a child at Christmas following this news, I have a few nerves as well. ‘Folklore’ remains on heavy rotation at the Mansion of Much Metal (and Progressive Rock), providing the same levels of magic as it did at the time of its release. The bar has been set and I desperately want ‘Grimspound’ to follow suit.So, does it?The answer, after a slightly slow start is ‘yes, very much so’. At the outset though, I wasn’t convinced if I’m honest. I was looking for similar heart-stopping moments to those that featured within the likes of ‘Brooklands’ or ‘Winkie’ and I couldn’t find them initially. But that says more about my levels of patience than it does about the music on offer within ‘Grimspound’ because, with time, those moments of genius are there to be found and to be heard. In fact, this entire record borders on genius as far as I’m concerned now. How else can you explain the fact that these eight musicians have returned so quickly and effortlessly with another eight superb, intricate and captivating progressive rock compositions?I understand that the band came up with an awful lot of material during the ‘Folklore’ writing sessions and some of what we hear on ‘Grimspound’ was given birth back then. But regardless, the achievement here beggars belief, it really does. Take a bow, Messrs Spawton (bass), Poole (guitars/keyboards), Longdon (vocals/flute), D’Virgilio (drums), Gregory (guitars), Manners (keyboards), Hall (violin) and Sjöblom (guitars/keyboards). You deserve it.Big Big Train have always followed a path of progressive rock that veers down the pastoral route and they probably always will – it’s in their blood. But this is not a group of musicians to stagnate either. So, whilst the music here is recognisable as Big Big Train, there are some differences to be heard between ‘Grimspound’ and previous albums.Some of this is down to the fact that newer members, Rikard and Rachel along with Danny have become more active in the song writing process, bringing their own unique view points to the table. And it is testament to the open-mindedness of the other members that this has been allowed to happen. Mind you, I think ‘welcomed with open arms’ would be a more appropriate description.One of the first things that I notice is that ‘Grimspound’ features very little brass. As someone who genuinely intensely dislikes brass within rock or metal music, I must confess that I am ever so slightly torn by this turn of events. For some reason, I never had a problem with the brass element of Big Big Train and so, once you realise how little of it is evident, it does give the music a slightly different flavour overall.As the band readily admits in the accompanying press release, ‘Grimspound’ also sees Big Big Train experimenting with longer passages of instrumental expression. So it comes as no surprise to learn that ‘On The racing Line’ for example is a five-minute instrumental piece, whilst other compositions have plenty of space for some indulgent instrumental flamboyance. Normally, I would baulk at the notion but where Big Big Train are concerned, they pull it off with style and elegance. Their music has always had the ability to tell a story and this is true whether or not there are lyrics being sung over the music; the dynamics and ideas at play here within the instrumental passages are such that the stories are able to continue very eloquently.Another interesting addition this time around is with the inclusion of a guest vocalist on the song ‘The Ivy Gate’. Judy Dyble offers her voice within this quite a dark and powerful composition that concerns “the reported sightings of a ghostly apparition beside the cemetery gates in a quiet English village.” It is an intriguing composition that begins with a folky, bluegrass banjo-led melody that initially I railed against. In the context of the song however, it makes a lot of sense and is a wonderful addition to the band’s armoury. Moreover, it is an ingredient that I have grown to rather like and enjoy.The violin playing of Rachel Hall is beautiful and I embrace the sadness and atmosphere that is conjured within this track. But even more, I love the way in which the song builds and opens up at the 4:30 mark to deliver a sumptuous melody that is made even more powerful by the duet of Longdon and Dyble that joins it, before the track deconstructs to end with some impressive and emotional vocals and the soothing sound of rain falling.It seems like I am uncontrollably waxing lyrical about this album, but that can’t be helped I’m afraid, with every positive word being well earned and justified. And it must continue I’m afraid.The opening few moments of ‘Brave Captain’ and indeed the album as a whole, create a very subtle, ambient soundscape, very introspective and thought-provoking at the same time. After a minute or so, the entire band enters the fray in what becomes a rousing and dynamic piece of music. This is arguably the most immediate track on the album but in true Big Big Train fashion, it ebbs and flows throughout its substantial 12 minute life creating a sense of drama upon which they tell the powerful story of a World War One pilot named Captain Albert Ball who gave his life for his country.Naturally, given the subject matter, there are moments that convey the sobriety of the story, like the almost Dire Straits-esque piano and bluesy guitar section. But equally, there are also times where the musicians open up their wings and take flight, just like the central character in the song. When they do so, it is quite a heady experience and it is easy to get caught up in the music that swells all around you.Another favourite is the quite stunning ‘Experimental Gentlemen’, a tale of Captain Cook on his first journey of discovery. Incorporating a vast array of intricate ideas within a remarkably cohesive whole, it moves from gentle, dreamy and wistful to up-beat and bouncy. You can feel an increase in intensity as the song slowly and inexorably moves through the gears to eventually deliver a dramatic sequence complete with an emotional and delicate lead guitar solo. That’s not the end though as there’s time for an extended atmospheric outro that has a subtle yet moving feel to it.Arguably the biggest exponent of those aforementioned extended instrumental passages is the longest track on the album, the hugely impressive ‘A Mead Hall In Winter’. The melodies are just so strong that they draw me in for repeated listens in spite of its length, rivalling anything that appeared on ‘Folklore’. But it is the experimentation and the ambition that is the most impressive aspect, including a plethora of bold and striking keyboard sounds as well as plenty of lead flamboyance all round. It all helps to create genuinely rich and engaging textures not to mention a multi-faceted, multi-layered soundscape. This sort of music only works when it is handled with care and attention to detail. And Big Big Train are fast becoming the safest pair of hands that I know, turning everything to gold with their unique Midas touch. My mind never wanders, my attention is never diverted away and as this epic composition draws to a close via a reprise of the early sumptuous melodies, I am filled with nothing but admiration for what has been achieved here.By contrast, ‘Meadowland’ is a much shorter proposition that benefits from a truly gorgeous lead violin and acoustic guitar intro, full of sensitivity and elegance. The wistful vocal delivery of Longdon adds a compelling embellishment to a piece of music that straddles the divide between folk and progressive rock, that I wish was twice as long.The title track begins in strange fashion with an oddly creepy and discordant introduction, quickly replaced by more acoustic guitars. Another serious grower, I’m currently of the opinion that it contains my very favourite melody on the entire album, accompanied by the words:“Out on the Heathland,Look up to the night sky.See the second brightest star?Adjust to the dark light.”The vocals and music together combine in magical fashion to stop me dead in my tracks. But I also enjoy the way in which the track subtly moves away from its starting point, to finish with more instrumental prowess in a much different and more up-tempo vein. The closing vocal passage is inspired too.Seeing as I’ve mentioned all the others, it seems churlish to overlook the closing composition, ‘As The Crow Flies’. It ends ‘Grimspound’ in fine fashion, fittingly oozing warmth and richness. It begins in delicate fashion, featuring more female vocals and some really welcome flute from Longdon. At the mid-point, the composition explodes in typically controlled but epic fashion, delivering a briefly rousing and heartfelt melody, led by hungry guitar notes that retreat all-too-quickly, allowing the song to ease to a gentle and introspective conclusion.Just when you thought that Big Big Train couldn’t possibly get any better, they do. ‘Grimspound’ is without doubt the best progressive rock album I’ve heard since…well, since ‘Folklore’ to be exact. Big Big Train have become an integral part of my musical life, to the point where I cannot imagine what my life was like before I discovered them. Right now, I can’t think of any bigger compliment that I can pay or one that is more justified and thoroughly deserved. Without question, Big Big Train are my favourite progressive rock band on this planet, bar none." - Man Of Metal blog
    $12.00
  • One of the great overlooked prog metal albums of the 90s made available again. This album with the odd name was only released in Japan by Toshiba-EMI in 1998. It was the debut album from this Swiss trio and featured the great Thomas Vikstrom on vocals. The music was keyboard driven, a bit off kilter and totally amazing. The band didn't release anything again until this year's Retrospective but the similarities are superficial. Retrospective is a great album but a bit more conventional. Cosmic Handball has a lot more personality. Its been remixed and remastered which can only help as the original production was a bit murky sounding. Highest recommendation.
    $5.00