The Source (2LP Vinyl)

SKU: 819873014522
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Music Theories Recordings
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While Ayreon’s ‘Forever/Planet Y’ saga seemed to have reached its conclusion with the album 01011001, it’s clear that Arjen Lucassen’s creative muses had other plans. The new Ayreon album The Source revisits the Forever saga, adding a whole new chapter to Lucassen’s impressive body of work. With its top-flight cast of singers and musicians, compelling songs, overwhelming sound, and intriguing story, The Source offers everything that has gained Lucassen dedicated fans worldwide since he laid the foundations of Ayreon back in the mid 90’s.

“Whenever I start something new, I usually have a solo album in mind”, Arjen Lucassen explains. “It gives me the freedom to go any direction I want. All options are still open, with regards to sound and style. This time around I initially felt that a new Star One album was appearing on the horizon because the guitars were so dominant. But after the first flutes and violins showed up, I realized I had a new Ayreon album in the making.”

This album, to be released on April 28, saw Lucassen’s creative process take an unusual twist. Normally, finding and assembling the album artwork comes very late in the process, long after the music is finished. But to gain inspiration he began looking for artwork very early on, after writing just the first few songs.

“While Googling I found the website of the French artist Yann Souetre. Right from the start I was fascinated by his imagery. It was industrial and futuristic at the same time. I was particularly captivated and inspired by a portrait of a woman under water, hooked up to various tubes. Not long after that I had an overall theme, a story line, and a visual aesthetic for the album. I contacted Yann, and after we agreed that his artwork would be available for the album, I continued composing songs with confidence and a clear vision.”

The Story of The Source is set six billion years in the past relative to Earth. It begins on Planet Alpha, a world in the Andromeda system where computer intelligence has far surpassed that of humanity.  Alpha is facing a massive global crisis, with ecological and political catastrophes threatening all human life. The Alphans (our human ancestors) try to save their planet by entrusting the global computer mainframe—The ‘Frame—to find a solution. Given total control of the planet, the ‘Frame reaches the logical conclusion that its creators are the cause of all the trouble. The only way to solve Alpha’s problems is to exterminate humanity. This leaves the Alphans no other option than to try and escape their horrific fate. But their escape comes at a terrible price.

“The most dramatic segment on the album is the song Condemned To Live. There is just one ship that is capable of making the journey to a new planet, and it can only carry a handful of people. So only those who have essential skills or other useful qualities are allowed to join. All the others have to stay behind. Those who are allowed to leave are, as the title goes, “Condemned To Live”, as they must wrestle with the unimaginable anguish of leaving their families—and the entire Alphan civilization—behind to certain doom.”

It’s the beginning of a story that contains everything that has made the Ayreon epics so endlessly fascinating all these years. First there are the musical riches, then there is the layered story line. It can all be interpreted as strict science fiction, but Arjen Lucassen doesn’t shy away from making references to actual events.

“I usually get inspired by scientific documentaries and facts. Just recently I heard that by around the year 2050, artificial intelligence will have surpassed human intellectual capacities, the ‘Technical Singularity’. What will the consequences be for humanity? I spend a lot of time thinking and philosophizing about this fascinating subject, and sooner or later some of these musings usually find their way onto my albums. Of course, everything is a product of my imagination, but at the same time I’d like to think that my stories could actually happen, at least theoretically!”

Arjen Lucassen strives to make every Ayreon album a contrast to the one before. “If The Theory of Everything was my prog album, then The Source is my rock album. It’s more guitar oriented, which makes it heavier than previous Ayreon releases.  The Source is also more ‘accessible’ than The Theory of Everything: the songs are structured more conventionally, and the melodies are catchier.”

The title of The Source invites various interpretations. It’s a reference to water—the source of life—and the water planet where the escaping Alphans find a safe new home after their long, arduous journey. The Source also points to the origins of humanity and the question of where we come from. The title also hints at the role that the album itself plays in the whole Ayreon catalogue. Given that it is a prequel, it can be thought of as the source of the entire Ayreon epic.

The international status of Ayreon enables Arjen Lucassen to write his characters with some of the most respected singers in rock in mind: James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), Simone Simons (Epica), Mike Mills (Toehider), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind), Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) and Russell Allen (Symphony X). Special contributions were offered by guitarists Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Asia, Steven Wilson), Marcel Coenen and keyboard player Mark Kelly (Marillion).

Just as on his previous albums, The Source has Arjen Lucassen playing a wide variety of instruments, while the inimitable Ed Warby (o.a. Elegy, Gorefest, Hail Of Bullets) once again masterfully handles the drums.

“For quite a while it was a self-imposed rule to avoid inviting a singer more than once for an Ayreon. I have a very close relationship with my audience, and frequently found them wishing that this vocalist or the other could have been present on my previous album. I then realized that my self-imposed limitation was doing the fans a disservice. That’s why The Source features many vocalists who have already sung on an Ayreon album before. In fact, about half of the singers made their debut on an Ayreon album.”

The Source adds a compelling new chapter to a career that began in the mid-nineties in a cloud of doubt and uncertainty. After years of gigging and making records with Dutch hard rock bands Bodine and Vengeance, guitarist Arjen Lucassen set out to create his own rock opera—including all the bells and whistles—inspired by the works that he cherished in his younger years: The Who’s Tommy, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Jeff Wayne’s The War of The Worlds. In the post-grunge era, the audacious ambitions of the tall Dutchman were met with stony indifference by most record labels. But Lucassen persevered and eventually his debut Ayreon offering, The Final Experiment, was released and managed to reach a huge international audience. The rock opera was back!

Following the success of The Final Experiment, new Ayreon albums arrived every few years. Their musical impact was such that they all became successful in their own right, even though Lucassen—a self-proclaimed recluse—chose not to promote the albums with live shows. Instead he opted to remain safely within the walls of his private studio The Electric Castle to work long days on his musical projects. Most of his albums have appeared under his Ayreon-moniker, but he also allows himself the occasional lyrical and musical sidestep with other projects such as Ambeon, Stream of Passion, Guilt Machine, The Gentle Storm, and Star One. Whatever he’s done and whatever name he’s used, it’s all been embraced by a loyal community of international fans.

2017 will be a particularly exciting year for Ayreon fans thanks to a unique chance to actually see Ayreon live. Limited to three exclusive performances, “The Ayreon Universe” will take place in September in the prestigious 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. This unprecedented live event features the best of twenty years of Ayreon music, brought to life by a top cast of musicians such as Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Anneke van Giersbergen and various others. The reclusive Arjen Lucassen himself is also expected to make a rare appearance on stage. The tickets for all concerts – 9000 in total – sold out within a day, proving once again that the Ayreon magic is still very much alive and kicking.

The Source is the first Ayreon album to be released by the renowned Dutch record company Mascot Label Group/Music Theories Recordings, which could be considered a new beginning for all things Ayreon. “Let me start by saying that I always make every effort to create the best Ayreon album possible. This time was no exception. I really wanted to deliver the goods, and I hope I did! I’ve got a very good feeling about it, mainly because of the way everything seemed to fall easily into place with this album. I’ve only experienced that twice before, with Into The Electric Castle and The Human Equation. The music, the story, the artwork and most of all the fantastic guest musicians just came together very naturally.”

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  • "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. 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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. 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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. 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  • "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!”"
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  • Budget priced new live album from fine German melodic prog metal band. Special guest Patrick Rondat featured on Rainmaker.
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  • Steven Wilson's solo career apart from Porcupine Tree, is for this listener, far more interesting.  Whereas PTree currently skirts the line between rock and metal, his solo work fits squarely in the progressive rock arena.  The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories) is easily his magnum opus.  The musicianship is stellar - he recorded with his touring band: Nick Beggs (Stick), Guthrie Govan (guitar), Adam Holzman (keys), Marco Minnemann (drums), and Theo Travis (flute, sax).  Mr. Wilson has also dug two things out of mothballs - King Crimson's Mellotron and Alan Parsons.  It was Steven Wilson's wish to one day work with Alan Parsons, who came on board as engineer.  I can't tell you who is responsibile for what but I can tell you that the production is impeccable.  The opening epic "Luminol" drips with the holy 'tron sounding like a cross-generation blend of King Crimson eras.  And so it goes through out the album.  Some utterly fierce playing on this album.  From beginning to end a stunning effort.  BUY OR DIE!
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  • James LaBrie once again that there is life outside of Dream Theater.  His solo band features a stable lineup consisting of Matt Guillory (keyboards), Marco Sfogli (guitars), Ray Riendeau (bass), Peter Wildoer (drums, death vox).  Jens Bogren once again mixed. An interesting twist to the mix is the inclusion of Soilwork's Peter Wichers who contributes some guitarwork and also collaborated on songwriting with LaBrie.While the music is square on prog metal and all in all not too dissimilar to Dream Theater its different enough to have its own vibe.  Wildoer's coarse vocal approach offers an interesting counterbalance to LaBrie's upper midrange clean voice.  The limited digipak edition comes with two bonus tracks.  Highly recommended.
    $13.00
  • Since their first release in 1999, WOLVERINE has pushed outside the boundaries of metal and evolved through inventiveness and explorative ambition, now incorporating a wider spectrum of musical elements into their own progressive sound.Machina Viva is a natural evolution from their last album Communication Lost, inviting the listener into the melodic yet dark and moody world of WOLVERINE.  It is the band’s most dynamic album to date; from the 14-minute epic and powerful “The Bedlam Overture” and the dark electronic landscapes of “Machina”, to the naked and organic nature of “Pile of Ash” and “Sheds”. This is the next step in WOLVERINE’s explorations in the progressive field.Machina Viva was recorded and produced by WOLVERINE in Sweden during autumn and winter 2015/2016. The album was mixed at Spacelab Studio (Germany) by CHRISTIAN “MOSCHUS” MOOS (HAKEN, DELAIN), and mastered by Grammy Award winning audio engineer BOB KATZ.
    $13.00
  • THE 4 DISC 40 PAGE HARDBOUND EDITION INCLUDES A CD WITH BONUS TRACKS, 5.1 SURROUND (24/96 DTS) AND HI-RES STEREO 24/96 LPCM) MIXES ON BOTH DVD AND DTS LOSSLESS BLU-RAY. "Nothing is more consistent in the world than change. In the realm of music, change either comes with the speed of an arthritic glacier, or so fast the music community is left breathless trying to keep up; there rarely seems to be any middle ground. As far as bands and their evolution go, they fall into two categories: bands who virtually never change their sound, and bands that do so frequently. Fans as a general rule seem hostile to bands changing their sound, “selling out” being the most common accusation. A key factor of successful change is that a band has to be able to do it well, and their new sound must stand up against other albums with such a sound.With that in mind, few bands have been so consistent, not only in changing but changing well as Liverpool’s Anathema. They started out as a slow and heavy doom metal band, and they were very good at it. Over time they left that far behind – indeed it is now all but a distant memory, with many newer fans being hardly familiar with those early albums. They evolved, adding alternative and progressive rock touches, but always sounding like themselves: dark, melancholy, and deeply emotional. They hit the peak of their progressive sound with 2012’s highly acclaimed ‘Weather Systems’ and followed it up with the stylistically similar ‘Distant Satellites’ in 2014, which I felt was rather underwhelming and derivative of the previous. Anathema, however, have changed themselves again with the upcoming ‘The Optimist.’  While retaining hints of their progressive flavor, it is heavily electronic in nature – one could say moody, dark electric pop. And, unsurprisingly, given their track record, they have delivered another excellent and engaging album.The genesis of the new album lies in their 2001 album ‘A Fine Day To Exit,’ an album which tells the story of a man and his attempt to escape from his life, its problems, and possibly start anew. The story was unresolved, and his fate unknown, and so the narrative of this new album is meant to answer the question of his fate. The album starts with the brief “32.63n 117.14w” which are the coordinates of Silver Strand beach in San Diego, the character’s last known location and the beach where the cover for ‘Fine Day’ was taken.  The album begins with the sound of crashing waves and a man walking through sand panting for breath before entering his car and flipping through radio stations until a steady electronic beat begins. It flows directly into “Leaving it Behind” where the first guitar picking of Vincent and Daniel Cavanagh begins and the album launches into one of the few true rockers of the album. The track is classic Anathema of recent years; Daniel’s rich voice soars over strongly melodic yet driving prog-tinged rock driven by the crisp drumming and percussion work of Daniel Cardoso and John Douglas. This song will make a perfect opening number for upcoming shows and will leave any fan of the band pleased and looking forward to more.The album continues with the string and electronic dominant “Endless Waves” which is sung by the band’s other lead singer, the lovely, crystal-voiced Lee Douglas, who officially joined the band in 2010. It has become common over the last few albums for Daniel and Lee to trade off the lead vocal duties on the first and second tracks and then mix it up through the rest of the album, and ‘The Optimist’ follows that pattern. The tracks continue the character’s journey quite literally with the instrumental “San Francisco” and then “Springfield,” which continues his quest to either disappear completely, or find himself and come to grips with his life. The piano and electronic aspects are especially highlighted through here, and the keyboard work of the two brothers is never flashy but just enough to capture the emotion. The rise and fall of the music and is handled with finesse quite beautifully.As with much of their previous work, the atmosphere of the album is as important as the individual songs. With the addition of so much electronic key work, the result is an almost urban feeling that hovers over the whole album. In that way, it is not dissimilar to Ulver’s excellent ‘Perdition City’ with its overall feeling of isolation in the midst of millions of people. And by often commenting on the electronic feel of the album, I do not mean to imply that it is an electronic album in the way that the previously mentioned Ulver album is. There are plenty of guitars and rock moments along the way, only the electronics hover over the album in a way they have not done on earlier albums. This mix of old and new blends in a manner which makes it familiar while still being unexpected, fresh, and unmistakably, Anathema.The band does go into a very different direction from anything they have done on the Douglas sung “Close Your Eyes,” which can accurately be called a lounge jazz number. Mostly piano driven with moody horn work and light jazzy drumming, one can imagine the character sitting in a dim, smoky jazz club sipping a drink while Lee is on stage singing to a small crowd. It was an unexpected twist, but works very well. Daniel picks up the vocal duties again on the much more familiar sounding and sparsely sung “Wildfires.” It finds the character questioning who he is before a climactic building of pounding drums and crunchy guitars largely overwhelm the floating vocals which end with the repeating line, “it’s too late” before quieting back down and moving into the final song “Back to the Start.”Fittingly with such a title, the album closes as it began with the sound of crashing and classic-sounding Anathema. The lyrics sum much of the theme of the album (if not their whole career) up as Vincent sings, “They don’t understand ‘cos they don’t talk for me/There ain’t no master plan/ I came in to make peace/ the more we’re made to suffer the more we’re made to care”. The song builds powerfully with both vocalists sharing duties and perhaps being the two characters of the drama which comes back to the start. The band deliberately leaves the fate up to the listener, whether he returns to his old life or escapes and leaves to a new one. Which ending you prefer is likely up to your personality; the romantic (in the classic sense) in me would like to believe he returned and resolved things, but the opposite is just as probable and satisfying in its own way. Regardless, it is a perfect closing to the album.With ‘The Optimist’, Anathema have crafted an entirely new, yet familiar-sounding album that requires the listener to not only give it multiple spins to come to grips with it, but richly rewards them for doing so. As a sequel to ‘A Fine Day to Exit,’ it succeeds in bringing closure to the story, and the decision to leave the conclusion up to the listener is skillfully and intelligently done. While I wouldn’t recommend this as the first album for a new Anathema listener, anyone who has been following the band in recent years should be very pleased with it. Highly recommended." - Metal Wani
    $49.00
  • " "The cold war's gone, but those bastards'll find us another one/They're here to protect you, don't you know?/So get used to it - Get used to it!.../The sense that it's useless, and the fear to try/Not believing the leaders, the media that feed us/Living with the big lie." ("Living With the Big Lie," from Brave)In the 27 years since Steve Hogarth took over as lead vocalist for Marillion, the band has had only one bona fide concept album: the aurally and emotionally stunning Brave (1994). Using as a starting point the (true) news story of a young woman found roaming around an area of England -- who did not know who she was, or where she had come from, and even refused to speak to the police or the media -- the band created a fictional "back story" for her, which included some fairly "dark" elements, including re politics, socio-culture, media -- and fear. The above quotation is a good example -- and very relevant to their new album, as the new album offers a look at how the "big lie" has become even bigger. However, the overall effect of Brave was more "melancholic" than grim, more sad than "judgmental" (of the society they describe).Twenty-two years later, the same (or worse) "darkness" exists in many of the same ways, but even more ominously now -- and this time the band is at the center of the story -- and they are ANGRY. Indeed, the overall effect of the album is one of barely checked (and occasionally unbridled) anger, and a deep frustration and concern both for England (whom they are directly addressing) and beyond (including the U.S., for whom some of the issues are the same). One might say (borrowing another phrase from Brave) that the band is no longer "hollow men," but has become both worldly-wise and world-weary, both "informed" and disillusioned, even (to a degree) cynical.The album consists of three suites, separated by two other compositions, one of which relates directly to the suites, the other of which seems a tad out of place (though, as we will see, its inclusion does make some sense). The three suites -- "El Dorado," "The Leavers," and "The New Kings" -- and the related composition ("Living in FEAR") are all, in one form or another, observations on fear: how it is created (fear-mongering), how it is controlled (via politics and media), how it affects people. The other composition ("White Paper") is mostly a meditation on love -- in this case, "dying" love -- though it seems that the love is dying at least in part as the result of the prevailing atmos-fear. Thus, while it is a tad more "jarring" in this context then the similar inclusion of love on Brave, there is no question that love is also a victim of fear.The album opens with "El Dorado," a five-part composition that describes the plight of immigrants, and the roadblocks (both figurative and literal) that they often encounter, particularly including xenophobia:"The roads are traveled by many, like promises of peace./And some choose not to go -- the fear looks like bravado./I see them waiting, smiling, on the borders in dawn's mist,/Or lost to the world in their upturned boats"/"I see myself in them, the people at the borders/Denied our so-called golden streets,/Running from demolished lives into walls."It doesn't get much more concise, and understandably cynical, than that. In fact, this suite makes an interesting companion piece to "Gaza" (from their previous album, Sounds That Can't Be Made): where the latter (a 17-minute epic) is specific to a certain group, the former (another 17-minute epic) deals with a broader scope. It is also interesting to note that this album was written and recorded well before the Brexit vote, and could be seen as somewhat prescient in that regard."Living in FEAR" is a more generalized look at fear, and particularly the responses it creates, not least including a variety of "walls" (again, both literal and figurative). Noting specific walls and "lines not to be crossed" (the Great Wall of China, the Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall -- all of which are called "a waste of time"), it also speaks to the "walls" that people themselves put up when they are afraid.That observation is made against a hopeful call for some sort of normalcy:"The key left in the outside of the unlocked door isn't forgetfulness --/It's a challenge to change your heart./The apple pie cooling on the windowsill is such a welcome change/From living in fear -- year after year after year./There's a price to pay, living in fear is so very dear./Can you really afford it?"There is also a call to "put down our arms" ("We've decided to risk melting our guns -- as a show of strength").Although least "political," the second suite ("The Leavers") puts the band in the center of the story -- after all, touring allows for a degree of observation of the world that is perhaps only shared by true "world travelers." The band sees itself as "Leavers" -- "parties that travel" -- who show up for a day or two and then move on. They arrive "before dawn," and "slip in from ring- roads," bringing their "boxes of noises, boxes of light": "We will make a show and then we'll go." They juxtapose themselves against the "Remainers": those who "remain in their homely places" (i.e., lead normal lives), and sometimes "try to persuade us, and tame us, and train us and save us and keep us home as we try to fit in with the family life." But once in a while, the Remainers "leave their homely places with excited faces -- preparing their minds for a break from the sensible life" (i.e., a rock concert)..."[I]n one sacred ritual, we all come together -- We're all one tonight."As noted, although "White Paper" is something of an "outlier" here, it nevertheless provides a look at how fear can affect love -- and vice-versa."The New Kings" is the angriest and most sardonic of the three suites. It addresses money and media, plutocrats and oligarchs. Re money, it is decidedly less than kind:"We are the new Kings, buying up London from Monaco./We do as we please, while you do as you're told./Our world orbits yours and enjoys the view,//From this height we don't see the slums and the bums on the street./Oceans of money high in the clouds/But if you hang around, more often than not it will trickle down./We're too big to fall, we're too big to fail."Even Gordon Gekko gets a shout-out ("Greed is good").With respect to the media, the following plaint by a confused citizen pretty much nails the cynicism of many people (including conspiracy theorists):"We saw the crash on the news today/It changed our lives -- but did it really happen?.../I don't know if I can believe the news/They can do anything with computers these days."As an aside, it is interesting to consider "The New Kings" in light of the following from Brave's "Paper Lies":"Are we living only for today?/It's a sign of the times --/We believe anything and nothing./When you look into the money/Do you see a face you hardly recognize?/When you get behind the news of the world/Do the things you find begin to bend your mind?/Paper lies."As noted, after 22 years, not only has nothing changed, but it seems to have gotten worse.But the band leaves its bitterest anger at the "approaching storm" (which may well already be here) for last:"Remember a time when you thought that you mattered/Believed in the school song, die for your country/A country that cared for you -- all in it together?/A national anthem you could sing without feeling used or ashamed./If it ever was more than a lie, or some naïve romantic notion/Well, it's all shattered now./Why is nothing ever true?.../On your knees, peasant. You're living for the New King."Although Marillion (and particularly Mr. Hogarth) has always dabbled in socio-politics, it has become increasingly present -- and the band increasingly concerned -- of late. In this regard, F.E.A.R. is a shamelessly -- and understandably -- angry set of observations, and brings their socio-politics to a fine (rapier-like) point.Musically, if Marillion's three strongest musical influences are (as I have always felt) Genesis, Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues, this album is strongly (and superbly) Floydian, with nice touches of the Moodies, and only occasional Genesis influence. (Indeed, the electric piano figure in "The Gold," and some other keyboard figures, could have been lifted from PF's Animals. And much of the guitar work throughout has a wonderfully Gilmour-ish sensibility.) This is actually not surprising (and is meant as a compliment), given that PF are the masters of the kind of "dystopian" rock that F.E.A.R. represents. And although everyone in the band is superb -- and there is a deceptively brilliant cohesion that approaches a sort of uber-gestalt -- this album is largely Mark Kelly's (with a more-than-able assist from guitarist Steve Rothery): although Mr. Hogarth undoubtedly plays some piano parts, it is Mr. Kelly's piano and keyboards (along with the atmospheres and effects created in the studio) that undergird nearly the entire album. And this, too, is not surprising, since this is true of almost every great concept album in prog.As suggested above, there are also quite a few allusions (subconscious or not), both lyrical and musical, to Brave. In fact, after you have had a chance to truly take this album in, I invite you to go back and read the lyrics to Brave, and then listen to Brave again. And this is not in any way a criticism of F.E.A.R.: if anything, it is another compliment. Indeed, the only reason I am rating this album 4.5 instead of five stars is that I gave five stars to Brave; and while this album is superb in every way -- and harks back to that masterpiece -- it does not quite reach the frightening brilliance of its predecessor.Finally, there is an aspect of this album that I have not found with any other concept album in memory. [N.B. This is where even curious readers who are reading this before listening may want to stop and listen to the album first. I am quite serious. I'll give you a little time to think about it. (Tick-tock-tick-tock?)]What I have discovered is that the five pieces are strangely "inter-changeable." What I mean by this is that the song order can be changed, not only without changing the overall concept, but, in at least one case (and I admit this is hopelessly presumptive) possibly strengthening it.This thought first occurred when I received the album as a download, with the song "Tomorrow's New Country" closing the album, even though it appeared on the lyric sheet as the sixth ("vi") part of "The Leavers." When I contacted Marillion to make sure this was the correct placement, I asked, if it was, whether it was deliberate: i.e., an attempt to "soften the blow" at the end of "The New Kings." The response was, yes, it was meant as an "antidote" (their word), and was deliberately moved from "The Leavers" to the end of the album (though the lyric sheet still reflected its original place).So -- I decided to see what the album would sound like putting "Tomorrow's New Country" back in its "proper" place. And the effect was remarkable. Not better or worse, just -- different, in a surprising (and even conceptually relevant) way. (Once you have heard the album in its given order a few times, I highly recommend programming it to do this -- just for fun, if nothing else.) Then, feeling as I do about "White Paper," I decided to test a theory, and played the five pieces in a couple of different orders entirely (while keeping the three suites in order). The order that surprised me most (in a positive, eyebrow-raising way) with respect to expressing the overall concept (and also working together "musically" from one track to another) was starting with "White Paper," playing the three suites in their present order one after the other, and ending with "Living in FEAR." Again, I am not suggesting that the order chosen by the band is "wrong" in any way. After all, the band's "vision" is the one that counts, and there are reasons (good ones!) that they chose the song order that they did. I am simply suggesting that, unlike most (maybe any) concept albums you've heard, there is an interesting ability to "play around" with the placement of the two non-suites, and maintain both conceptual and musical integrity.Ultimately, F.E.A.R. is a superb album (and, like all great albums, gets better with each listen), and a welcome addition not only to Marillion's oeuvre, but to the prog concept album canon. Kudos to one of the few bands that keeps neo-prog not simply alive, but thriving and -- progressing. And a band that has genuine care and concern for the world around them and the people who live in it." - ProgArchives
    $23.00
  • I guess miracles do happen. Incredible to think that its been 18 years since Epilog was released. The long promised third album is finally here and it does not disappoint. The boys and girl are back in town and they sound exactly the way they did on Hybris and Epilog. Essentially Anglagard infuse their music with the best elements of 70s prog from Sweden, Germany, and England and do it at the same high standard as the original bands that influenced them. Viljans Oga consists of 4 epic tracks of Mellotron laded symphonic rock bliss.After the band's triumphant return to the stage at Nearfest Apocalypse, the band generously divided up their remaining stock of the new album among the various vendors. For the moment we have a limited stock that we expect to sell out very quickly. More will be on the way shortly. For the moment - if you are reading this grab it because it won't be here the next time you look.BUY OR DIE!
    $22.00