Avant Garde/RIO

Upsilon Acrux is amazzzzzzzzing. --Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth

$ 6.60
$ 11.00
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October Equus are one of the more interesting bands on the so-called "avant-prog" scene.  Their music has a dark energy that often evokes the spirit of Present and King Crimson.  A lot of this is due to the angular stylings of guitarist/leader Angel Ontalva.

$13.00
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"Souffle Continu Records presents the first official vinyl reissue of With (Junk-Saucepan) When (Spoon-Trigger), Mahogany Brain's 1971 debut album.

$26.00

Limited edition clear blue vinyl.  Only 300 copies pressed.

$26.00

"Skewered blasts of noisome, Red metal shatters through rough and tumble landscapes of shuddering percussion, ominous, gravelly basslines and wheezing synths. An all-instrumental bulldozer of an album..." – i/e

$15.00
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ONE OF A KIND TITLE FROM THE LASER'S EDGE ARCHIVE

$7.00
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"Originally recorded in 1983, Present's Le Poison Qui Rend Fou (The Poison That Makes You Insane), the band's second and final album until their rebirth in the mid 90s, is a classic of complex, Rock In Opposition-style electric chamber rock.

$21.00
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"After co-founding Univers Zero in 1974 and co-leading that group through their first two albums, guitarist and composer Roger Trigaux left Univers Zero in May, 1979, right after the completion of Heresie. His new ensemble, Present, was a more electric and a more compact ensemble.

$15.00
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"Four years after their first, the mighty band of Oakland, led by guitarist / vocalist Wally Scharold, presents its new production, with a renewed line-up that keeps faith with its distinctive style reaching a full maturity in avant-garde rock.

$18.00
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"Sometimes you have to wonder… why do Ulver albums still get reviewed on metal blogs? After all, the band themselves haven’t had a shred of “metal” in them for a long time.

$14.00
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  • Second release from this German band and frankly its a huge improvement from their debut. Dante skirt the fine line between neoprogressive rock and progressive metal. The music is quite melodic and there is some heaviness in the guitarwork...and yeah the keyboardist likes to shred like Jordan does...so maybe they can slip into the metal category. File these guys along side Ricochet.
    $3.00
  • Its been quite a long time since we've heard from Magic Pie.  They went through lots of trials and tribulations getting this album finished but now its finally arrived.  If you are not familiar with this band here's the deal: Magic Pie are a Norwegian band with a retro 70s sound.  The music is a bit of a high wire act balancing the neo-prog sounds of The Flower Kings with the heavier elements of classic Uriah Heep.  They also seem to be the darlings of Rosfest having played there multiple times."It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since these proggers from Norway released their promising debut "Motions of Desire". At that time, their music struck me as an enthusiastic combination of classic prog and classic hard rock. (Think Deep Purple for the hard rock side of that equation.) At their best, they offered memorable passages and pieces that sounded like they very well could have been long lost recordings from many years ago. At their worst, they sometimes fell short of filling the big shoes of the legendary bands whose music they strove to emulate. That's actually not bad for a debut album from a new prog band. I found much to like and looked forward to hearing from them again in the future.Checking back in on them a decade later, I must say that I am very impressed with how they have developed and matured. No longer do I get the feeling that certain sections of songs are direct homages to any particular band from any one particular decade of prog's illustrious history. Their influences, while still very present and valid, are now more varied, including a greater percentage of modern reference points. More importantly, their influences are just that--merely influences rather than templates or even primary reference points.The sound quality on "King for a Day" is superb thanks in large part to the enlistment of sonic genius Rich Mouser (whose resume includes similar work for prominent contemporaries like Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and Dream Theater).Keyboardist Erling Hananger is an excellent addition to Magic Pie's recipe. His keyboard parts are expressive, dynamic and integral to the music. When appropriate, his leads seamlessly blend, harmonize, and work synergistically with electric guitar.The lyrics have a melodramatic and somewhat tragic flair this time around, but this is prog so you should be accustomed to the musical ride including a few tragic tales from time to time by now, right?OK ' so it's time for the "magic" question... A decade after their debut album, how has my impression of Magic Pie changed?On "King for a Day", I now hear a band which has found "its own voice", one that resonates confidently in the space somewhere between classic arena rock of yesteryear (on prog-steroids of course) and modern melodic prog of the 21st Century (like Spock's Beard and The Flower Kings). Add a few dashes of modern prog-metal to taste and you, my friend, have baked up a very nice confection indeed... MAGIC PIE!If you love modern prog anthems with big harmonies and 'sing along' choruses, give "King for a Day" a listen! I'm glad I did!" - ProgArchives
    $15.00
  • Brilliant double live set clearly demonstrates that Mr. Hackett can still bring the thunder to the stage. The set was drawn from shows in Paris, London, and New York during the 2009/2010 tour. With a great line up and a set list that digss into his solo career as well as Genesis gems, this is impossible to pass up. Simply awesome!
    $12.00
  • "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
  • 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
  • Since the release of 2013’s In Crescendo, Kingcrow toured North America in support of Pain Of Salvation, and headlined a European tour.  Kingcrow kept busy in 2014, touring Europe with Fates Warning and at the same time crafting the material that would become Eidos.“Eidos” is a new conceptual album about choices, consequences, dealing with regret and disillusion. Their earlier album Phlegethon dealt with childhood and In Crescendo about the end of youth.  Eidos can be considered the third part of a trilogy about the path of life. Musically it sees the band exploring new territories and pushing the extremes of its complex soundscape with a darker atmosphere and a more progressive attitude.Describing the band today is quite a difficult task, but one could state that the influence of such artists as Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead , King Crimson and Massive Attack are all present in the music of Kingcrow.With each release Kingcrow has taken a step further away from their original roots as a classic metal band and is now one of the most personal and exciting bands that Italy has to offer.
    $13.00
  • Monumental album from Ritchie Blackmore/Ronnie James Dio. Worth it just for "Stargazer" alone. Remastered edition. Essential.
    $5.00
  • Latest studio album from this outstanding band from Sweden.  The best thing about Beardfish is their ability to be contemporary but they blend in just enough old school sounds to appeal to the entrenched prog fan base.  The band never quite sounds retro yet they incorporate vintage keys and guitar sounds. Chalk this up to great songwriting. On their previous album, The Void, something went amiss and it didn't sit well with their fans.  The band had taken on a heavier edge touching on metal.  Well have no fear - the band has jettisoned all metal trappings and have returned to the sound of the earlier albums.  Swirls of organ and Mellotron are everywhere and the unmistakeable sound of the Rickenbacker bass will slam you in the gut.  Are you are fan of Anekdoten, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, or even The Flower Kings?  You need to hear this.With regards to the bizarre album title here is a clue from the band:“The comfort zone is the invisible protective suit of negative thinking, almost like an entity of itself. It’s been with you since birth: your parents and your teachers and your friends and your neighbours all teaching you the way the world works – this is how it is and will be and there’s nothing you can do about it. The negative vibe is like a voice living inside of you, a companion through life. With time you start to like that voice and the place it takes you to: your comfort zone. I’m so sick and tired of it and I want to address it and maybe in that way start to work my way out of it”+4626 Comfortzone comes with a bonus CD featuring 13 previously unreleased demo and outtake tracks spanning 2002-2008.BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • 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!
    $11.00
  • The release of 2012's critically acclaimed Trouble With Machines ushered in an exciting era for Chicago-based Progressive Rock band District 97. In 2013, the band toured both Europe and the US with legendary bassist and vocalist John Wetton (King Crimson/UK/Asia), which was documented on 2014's live release, One More Red Night: Live in Chicago. 2013 also saw the band nominated for a Limelight Award by Prog Magazine. Rather than rest on their laurels, District 97 took to the studio in 2014 to record the new material they'd been honing at home and on the road. The resulting album, In Vaults, continues and accelerates the upward trajectory of great songwriting and incredible musicianship that's been evident since the band's 2010 debut, Hybrid Child. One listen perfectly illustrates why John Wetton says, “I've said it before, and I maintain that D97 is the best young progressive band around right now. Gifted players, great material, and a brilliant, charismatic singer in Leslie Hunt."In addition to its evocative and powerful songwriting and performances, In Vaults features the immaculate mixing of Rich Mouser (Spock's Beard, Transatlantic), mastering by Grammy winning engineer Bob Katz and the stunning imagery of Björn Gooßes of Killustraitions. 
    $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
  • Second album from this brilliant Australian prog band led by Sam Vallen and Jim Grey.  The band started out as a project and has now expanded into a full blown quintet.  Caligula's Horse has assimilated a variety of influences.  You wouldn't call them a pure prog metal band as there is a strong atmospheric prog rock component.  Djent riffs are part of the band's sound as well.  I'm particularly drawn to Jim Grey's clean vocals.  They work perfectly here.  So basically a lot of disparate elements congealed into a greater whole and it works incredibly well.  You get something heavy (at times), and atmospheric (at times).  Think Tesseract meets Dream Theater meets Riverside.  Modern, forward thinking music.  Easily one of 2013's best releases.  Highly recommended.  BUY OR DIE!
    $13.00
  • Michael Romeo doesn't work quickly.  The man takes his time and a new Symphony X album is ready when its been honed to perfection.  Underworld is the first new album in four years.  To get to the point its ridiculously great.  Up through V, the band were the modern agents of neoclassical/symphonic metal.  With The Odyssey the band took a left turn with Russell Allen's vocals being more agressive and a pervasive overall crunchiness, heaviness to the sound.  Perhaps a bit less symphonic sounding.  With Underworld fans of the "old style" will smile once again.  The band has found a way to balance both sides of their sound.  Its heavy but extremely melodic.  Russell's vocals are spot on and Mr. Romeo's solos have an organic flow that will sweep you through the tune.  Its a beautiful marriage of styles - not too much of either direction that the band has exhibited in the past.  Toss in a theme built around Dante's Inferno and you've totally sucked me back in to the fold.  BUY OR DIE!"A lot has happened with New Jersey-based progressive metal band SYMPHONY X since the Iconoclast album was released four years ago. Singer ‘Sir’ Russell Allen recorded and toured behind several releases with ADRENALINE MOB, toured with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA and recorded the album The Great Divide with ALLEN-LANDE. Bassist Mike Lepond toured with HELSTAR and released his excellent solo album under the name SILENT ASSASSINS. Keyboardist Michael Pinnella released a solo album and guitarist Michael Romeo made guest appearances on some albums. Drummer Jason Rullo battled and successfully recovered from heart failure in 2013.Four years later, SYMPHONY X delivers another fantastic album, the band sounding just as powerful as Iconoclast, and amazingly never missing a beat. Titled Underworld, it is sort of a concept album, loosely based on Dante’s epic poem Inferno. Dante’s Inferno is not a totally original topic in the metal world; ICED EARTH featured an epic song based on it on their 1995 album Burnt Offerings and SEPULTURA wrote a concept album based on it with 2006’s Dante XXI, while SYMPHONY X themselves included references to it on their 1997 album The Divine Wings Of Tragedy. Several other metal bands have also been influenced by the poem.SYMPHONY X do not follow the tale word for word, but use it more as an inspiration. Michael Romeo is quoted as saying that the album has a theme of “going to hell and back for something or someone you care about.” He also said that this album is more about “the song” instead of the album as a whole, allowing it to flow better from song to song. This doesn’t mean every song is an attempt at a single. Romeo’s intent when writing songs for Underworld was for people to be able to take in the whole album in one listening. (The total album length is just over an hour, compared to Iconoclast’s two discs that were around 83 minutes).To be honest, the last two SYMPHONY X albums, 2007’s Paradise Lost and 2011’s Iconoclast were my favorite albums released by the band so far. I refer to them as the “angry” SYMPHONY X, mainly due to Russell Allen’s vocal delivery and the aggressive music on those particular albums. So, I waited to see if we would get a third album in this same vein from SYMPHONY X. The songs on Underworld seem to alternate between prog and aggression, but for the most part, the album is not as “angry” as Iconoclast. The album strikes a perfect balance between prog and power. Some songs are aggressive without being “angry”. There are definitely more classic SYMPHONY X elements here than on recent releases.The album is much more accessible than previous albums. The songs overall are shorter (most clocking in at around the 5-6 minute mark), and more to the point than on previous albums. For example, “Kiss Of Fire” is one of the best tracks I’ve ever heard by SYMPHONY X. It immediately became a favorite of mine on this album, with the verse, “Bring down the hammer, with serious anger – It’s me against the world!” section and the chorus becoming some of my favorite moments. This song probably represents the album to me more than any other, but the album is filled with classics, such as opener “Nevermore”, a ferocious track that is aggressive in the verses, while the chorus is more melody-driven. The title track follows, with many twists, turns and speed sections. “Without You” is a standout track. With its guarded delivery by Allen and acoustic guitar flowing in the background, it is probably the mellowest moment on Underworld, but that’s not a bad thing. The chorus is the focus of the track, with Allen performing some of his best work. The song probably has the most potential as a single. Another solid track, “Charon”, named for the ferry boatman of the underworld, follows. This track has a middle-eastern flavor to it.The longest track on the album (9:24 in length) follows, the excellent “To Hell And Back”. This song has so many great parts, it’s hard to pick a particular favorite, possibly Allen’s soaring vocal on the chorus or the “on and on and on / no quarter asked, no quarter given” section. “In My Darkest Hour” follows and is another favorite of mine, featuring speed riffing parts, mixed with a melodic chorus. Allen really shines on this song. “Run With The Devil” is even more up-tempo and another one of the more accessible songs due to the chorus. “Swan Song” finds keyboardist Pinnella taking the bulk of the spotlight with his piano flourishes. The album closes with the excellent “Legend”. Allen’s aggressive pre-chorus vocals and melodic chorus vocals make this an instant classic.I believe the playing on Underworld is at another level for the band. Lepond’s bass work is spectacular throughout and Jason Rullo makes a real statement with his drum performance. Fantastic work from keyboardist Michael Pinnella and of course guitarist Michael Romeo’s amazing riffs and solos are worth the price alone. But you get more, don’t you? You get one of the best singers in metal, Sir Russell Allen, making yet another classic album even better with his voice.The album’s exquisite cover artwork (once again by illustrator Warren Flanagan) features the return of the SYMPHONY X masks, around which are eight symbols that represent the circles of hell: limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, and fraud. The symbol for treachery, the ninth circle, is underneath the masks, and hopefully will be revealed in full inside the album packaging.Underworld is a great album, which grew on me the more I listened to it. SYMPHONY X are masters of American prog metal, and have been for quite some time. Underworld further cements that reputation, and will undoubtedly please fans of all eras of the band." - KNAC.com 
    $14.00
  • "The Flower Kings have been performing their brand of symphonic rock since their formation in 1994. Roine Stolt is the "veteran cosmic rocker" who heads this formidable assault on modern prog. They and some of their peers have been responsible for both maintaining and expanding the fan base for modern progressive rock since the '90s.Although I have enjoyed some of their music over time, I have only slightly enjoyed most of their work. That changes with Desolation Rose. This is a masterpiece in modern prog and it will definitely compete for one of the top spots on my favorite albums of the year list.Last year, The Flower Kings returned after an almost 5 year hiatus. They released Banks of Eden in the summer of 2012 to a strong favorable reaction from fans and critics alike. I missed that one, but will go back and try to listen to it after hearing Desolation Rose. They celebrated their success with a tour of the world. This year the band hit the road again to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their label InsideOut Music with old friends, and label mates Neal Morse & Mike Portnoy. They kept the momentum going with a return to Fenix Studio in Sweden to start work on the recording of Desolation Rose.The band describes Desolation Rose, as a "live" recording made on reel to reel tape to bring back the feeling from analog recording. They also brought out some classic vintage keyboards, like a Hammond B3, Mellotron M 400, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog and a whole host of Tube amps. All to bring back the glorious past. They further describe Desolation Rose as: "Being somewhat of a political statement, the epic theme of Desolation Rose is a logical step in a time where perpetual war, famine, environmental threats, religious conflicts dominate the media and our minds. This is a time to wake up and the music on this album takes you on a journey where you are forced to question what the mainstream media feed us and to rethink your whole world view on all of the above. This is in many ways a typical Flower Kings album but we have also taken it into another realm where we do take chances and where you may struggle to get into the music - or the lyrics - but trust me when I say that you will be rewarded, as this may be our most involved, important and interesting album ever." (Roine Stolt).Ok, so… "on with the show…this is it"."Tower ONE" is an over 13 minute epic to start this album off in the right direction. Stolt's vocals opens with, "She'll walk me slowly through burning spear. She'll be my shelter no sign of fear. She'll walk me slowly through wholesome light. She'll be my shelter. She'll be my eye". Stolt describes "an observation by an angel who resides in a mysterious tower, looking down on the entire world's ongoing perpetual insanity, yet unable to reach out and help" (Flower King's Desolation Rose Press Release, 2013). The solid drums, dripping bass, lead electric guitars rock. The band gives you more than you may ever have dreamed of receiving on this epic opener. But for me it's the keyboards that truly shine the best on this track. "Don't we all shine on?" Well…yes definitely on this one.If you close your eyes and listen to "Sleeping Bones", you may actually visualize Rael emerging from the mist and rain on Broadway. And with all the wonderful string arrangements and soft mandolin, this one will definitely take you immediately back to some of the highlights from "The Lamb". But Stolt enters to provide a new direction, "We're the third from the sun. We're a long way from home. We're between land and sea. We are blessed and we're greed". He then proceeds to uncover the world's many ills as the deep bass, power Hammond, and punching drums march their cadence. A dark march into the current state of affairs delivered with powerful lyrics."Desolation Road" opens with limitless grand piano, yes the kind you may remember again from "The Lamb", and powerful slamming drums and stellar synths that create a spectacular grand opening. "Be sure to meet your enemies with open eyes. As you answer drums of war with a lullaby. Battlefields that come alive. You know you cannot hide. But here you know your fears…the man inside". "There are no glittering prizes." Yes, another powerful lyrical commentary on the state of affairs globally. The weeping lead electric guitar licks are perfect for the mood of the song. The keyboards, drums, bass and jams are excellent. Three tracks in and you know you're listening to a winner. Something you will play over again…many times.Well, when you open with excerpts of a speech from Richard Nixon, you know "White Tuxedos" is going to be full of political angst. "I respect your ideals. I want peace. Bring the boys home". Nice that they decided to go with images of Vietnam, for all of us old enough to remember the ravages of that war. No war or person personifies the evil politician more than Nixon and the unfortunate war he escalated only magnified that feeling globally for many. Modulated vocal delivery helps add swag to the powerful message. The music supports the power of this piece well. Dark and full of some excellent solo electric guitar, accompanied by solid bass, punching drums, and deep keys."The Resurrected Judas" is full of wonderful acoustic guitar and elegant keys after the opening explosion of drums and lead electric guitar. The softer transition welcomes you to this tale full of soft synth keys and great vocals. The lead electric guitar soloing adds dramatic flair. The dark tone keys and dripping bass help create a jam session full of piano and melody which at times take you back to Collins era Genesis with its Tony Banks keyboard romps. At over 8 minutes this track is full of imagery and cinematic music that will definitely entertain. I kept hearing echoes of the imagery in the lyrics and music from the song "Squonk", which is not a bad thing at all."Silent Masses" opens with bold keys and organ and what sounds like Jonas Reingold singing about factories again, "So you think you can rule all the fools. Staying cool when the walls coming down. Got the world on a string, but your bird cannot sing. All these men in the factory lines. And all the angels who fell from the skies. You tried to say hello, but they say goodbye", while some Beatles "And Your Bird Can Sing" chords fall like rain. "We are just the silent masses" becomes the refrain. The solid drums, bass, lead electric guitar and keyboards build as the drama continues on the second half of the track. Another solid song to add to the discography."Last Carnivore" opens with some dramatic flair from drums, bass, and lead electric guitar. The momentum continues to build excitement and mystery. "The nightmare becomes real. You have fallen from your tower". "Seven matches seven". The lead electric guitar solos accompanied by drums are powerful. The keys slide in to garnish the sound perfectly. The rhythm and melody of this track make it one of the best.With a title like "Dark Fascist Skies", you know it can't be good. The opening reminds me of Jethro Tull's A album classic "Black Sunday"; with its heavy keyboard and lead electric guitar assault. The ominous start forebodes multiple mellotron tones and a full on launch of power keyboards, bass, lead guitar and drums to the ears. This track is full of drama and ominous lyrics and sounds."Blood of Eden" is my second favorite track on the album. "We're the third from the sun. We're a beacon and a seventh wonder. We are green and we are growing. We are the one and eternal Mother". Its lyrics like that which will endear you immediately to this song. This is no way as powerful as Peter Gabriel's "Blood of Eden". And at times you can even here a bit of Jon Anderson in the high notes reached vocally. But still it is a solid track for this album."In "Silent Graveyards" we look for saviors" is repeated several times as launching guitars, and keys rocket this short song high.This is a keeper. If you are new to the Flower Kings, welcome to the party. You picked a good time to find them. If you are a fan this is a must buy." - Sea Of Tranquility
    $11.00