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  • To say this album is monumental would be an understatement.  Jon Anderson has finally made the Yes album that we've all been waiting for the band to record for the past 40 years and never seemed to get around to it.My understanding is that the germ of the collaboration between Roine Stolt and Jon Anderson began when they met on one of the mega-concert cruises.  Anderson and Stolt have been bouncing material back and forth since then and Roine pulled it together into something amazingly cohesive.  Ex-Yes keyboardist Tom Brislin is on board, as are many of the members of Flower Kings and Karmakanic: Jonas Reingold, Michael Stolt, Lalle Larsson, Felix Lehrmann.  Daniel Gildenlow and Nad Sylvan contribute backing vocals.The album consists of 4 epic length tracks.  The vibe, the feel, the soul feels like Yes.  Some people say this sounds like The Flower Kings with Jon Anderson singing.  I don't hear it that way.  To me this has the DNA of Going For The One and Tales From Topographic Oceans.  Is there some Flower Kings feel here?  Sure - after all if there was no Yes there probably wouldn't be a Flower Kings.Roine is a fabulous guitarist.  While he doesn't try to mimic Steve Howe's tone or style he does use a parallel array of guitars.Plain and simple...this is the Yes album you've been craving for decades.  Easily the prog rock album of the year.  I'm simply blown away.  BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • "Approaching a review for a new Frost* album is incredibly daunting.  These are the guys that released what I consider a modern prog classic in “Milliontown”, an album that may possibly have changed progressive music for the new generation.  This is the band that we have been waiting to hear from for so long now: It’s been eight years since their last album!  This is the band that became a progressive giant in just one album.  So, what can be said about their new album “Falling Satellites”?Let’s get one thing out of the way: This album should not be compared with “Milliontown”, or even “Experiments in Mass Appeal”.  All three albums are very different in approach, though “Falling Satellites” does seem to fall somewhere between the other two.  This new album will also never be lauded as much as the debut, and that’s perfectly fine.  “Falling Satellites”, a quite different album, stands on its own with a deliberate attempt to reinvent prog once again.The old line-up is halfway back, as Jem Godfrey (keys, vocals) and John Mitchell (guitars, vocals) are back and honestly sound better than ever.  Newcomers Nathan King (bass) and Craig Blundell (drums) complete the band this time, forming what might be the best line-up of the three albums.  Honestly, these guys have been working together since 2010, so the line-up isn’t exactly new.Let’s talk about the album before we go into the performances.  “Falling Satellites” is Frost*’s most pop-influenced album, without a doubt.  Tackling the heavy concept of the astounding impossibility of our existence and the resulting lessons that should be learned, the album addresses life with upbeat music that get progressively more serene with each track.  So, if you are looking for some sort of retro prog or maybe a heavier sound, they went in exactly the opposite direction.  Unswayed by the modern trends in progressive rock, Frost* have released an album that celebrates the missing progressive pop subgenre with sounds ranging from subtle to sweeping to dubstep.  Yes, dubstep (more on that in a bit).  This is an album that might shock the prog snob in all of us, as it presents us with razor sharp vocal hooks, upbeat melodies, and some songs that might not be progressive at all.  Yet, it also offers incredibly technical grooves, layers and layers of gorgeous sounds, progressive structures, and, of course, some of the best soloing you will ever hear on any album.The album has a little bit for everyone.  Bookended by an ethereal intro and outro, the album truly begins with “Numbers”, a song that could have been on “Experiments”, which means it’s fast-paced and catchy as hell.  Other similar songs are “Lights Out” (a pop song through and through), and the incredible track “Heartstrings”.  Other songs lean towards “Milliontown”, such as the big build of “Signs”, the subtle “Closer to the Sun”, or the complex labyrinth of “Nice Day for It”.  The album seems a bit all over the place at first, but comes together when you realize that the last six songs on the album are a suite called “Sunlight”.  In fact, you’ll hear the basic melodies of “Heartstrings” reoccur in “Nice Day for It”.  Once you understand the structure of the album, it really starts to makes sense, especially as the last half of the album surges and then hits a cooldown for the last two tracks.Perhaps my favorite track on the album, however, is “Towerblock”.  I like it so much that I want to devote a paragraph to it.  This track has achieved what bands likes Muse could not do: They have incorporated dubstep into a progressive album seamlessly.  “Towerblock” is a song of explosive vocals, winding instrumentals, and a dubstep section that feels right at home.  I especially love the way Jem’s keyboards break forward from the last dubstep beat.  “Falling Satellites” is full of sublime moments like that.I guess it’s time to talk about the performances now.  Jem and John are obviously the focus here.  Jem’s keys are inimitable, winding and streaming with a consciousness of their own.  Every time his keys sweep in, my heart races just a little more quickly, and his mastery of new instruments like The Chapman Railboard (played horizontally) is all the more impressive.  John, too, is at the top of his game.  After Lonely Robot’s offering last year, I was more excited to hear him play again, and he does not disappoint.  His guitar solos strike that emotionally perfect first note that few guitarists can achieve.  Nathan and Craig, however, may be the unsung heroes of the album.  Nathan’s bass is exceedingly important here, establishing the grooves around which the keys and guitars orbit.  Craig, a proven talent on the drums, lays down deceptively simple beats that you will find yourself trying to follow, but then you’ll realize that they are way more complicated than you thought.That kind of subtle complexity is a huge part of “Falling Satellites”.  Some will hear this album and proclaim it as a pop.  They’d be wrong, of course.  Yes, there is pop influence here that is undeniable (and I love it), but there is also an underlying technicality here that will blow your mind if you give it a chance, especially the second half.  In many ways, Frost* has once again redefined what we understand to be progressive music, and they’ve done it with gusto and pomp and a smile on their faces." - The Prog Mind
    $13.00
  • With each successive release the question always is asked – How will the Tipton Brothers top their last album? The band’s fifth album, Dark Deceiver, is another jaw-dropping achievement of technical metal. The quartet of Jasun Tipton, Troy Tipton, Mike Guy, and Chris Salinas take their “chops from hell” attitude to a new level. In creating Zero Hour, the brothers envisioned a dark, heavy, emotional vibe, expressed through intricate arrangements, forceful vocals, and meaningful lyrics.2006 found the band in a curious situation. Although they were attracting attention and accolades around the world they were in need of a new vocalist. The problem was solved by the arrival of noted vocalist Chris Salinas, formerly of Power Of Omens. The resulting album “Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond” met with stellar reviews, a US tour and a headlining slot at the Headway Festival in Netherland. The year culminated in the band’s third appearance at ProgPower USA in Atlanta – the largest progressive metal festival in the world.For the recording of their new album the band once again collaborated with producer Dino Alden. Dark Deceiver finds the band experimenting with their already defined sound. The compositions are more technical than before. Alden took advantage of Salinas’ incredible vocal talents to apply some interesting and dramatic treatments, creating something very different from their previous recordings. This is without question the band’s crowning moment.
    $13.00
  • “Let us begin where it all began...”Progressive rock band Big Big Train return with Folklore, their first full-length studio album since the award winning English Electric. Folklore contains nine new songs with a total running time of 68 minutes.Despite the album title, Folklore is by no means a collection of traditional-sounding folk music pieces. On Folklore, Big Big Train are reimagining and breathing new life into traditional themes, and also creating a few new ones along the way. The crafts of songwriting and storytelling beat strongly at the heart of the Big Big Train and inform every track on the new album.Folklore features the same line up (eight piece band and brass quintet) that performed three sell out shows at Kings Place in London last summer, with the addition of a string quartet. The experience of bringing this complex music to the concert stage has honed the band’s sound, making Folklore a focussed and exciting listening experience. All the hallmarks of the Big Big Train sound can be found here: powerful and emotional vocal delivery, and dramatic extended song arrangements which showcase the musical ability within the band.Big Big Train proudly present Folklore: an epic progressive rock tour de force.“Heigh-ho, so we go. We pass it on, we hand it down-o...”Folklore Ancient stories told by our ancestors around the camp re, being passed down from generation to generation. The passage of time sees the coming of written language and electronic communication, but still we tell our stories and pass them on.London Plane Once upon a time, a great tree took root on a river bank, and watched through the years as a city grew around it.Along The Ridgeway A journey along an ancient pathway, where legends are reborn.Salisbury Giant Big Big Train tell the true story of a medieval giant.The Transit Of Venus Across The Sun When the astronomer lost the love of his life, he set a course for the stars. Inspired by the much-loved British TV astronomer and educationalist, Patrick Moore.Wassail The old ways get a 21st century reboot in this pagan- inspired progressive-folk groove. The title track from Big Big Train’s Wassail EP, it was nominated in the “Anthem” category at the 2015 Progressive Music Awards.Winkie A ripping action adventure story about a true life war heroine, the  rst to receive the Dickin medal in honour of her achievement. To the best of our knowledge, this is the  rst prog epic about a pigeon...Brooklands John Cobb, racing driver, lived life at high speed on the racing line. Time passes, but the ageing driver yearns for one more adrenaline  lled lap of the track... Cobb died in 1952 while attempting the world water speed record at Loch Ness.Telling The Bees Traditionally, bees were told of births, deaths and marriages within the bee-keeper’s family, as it was believed that otherwise they would leave the hive. When his father is killed in the First World War, a young boy takes on this responsibility, grows up to become a man,  nds love and starts his own family. “The bees are told... and we carry on...”.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Big Big Train: BackgroundDavid Longdon: vocals and  ute; Rachel Hall: violin; Dave Gregory: guitars; Rikard Sjöblom: guitars and keyboards; Danny Manners: keyboards; Andy Poole: guitars and keyboards; Greg Spawton: bass; Nick D’Virgilio: drumsFormed in Bournemouth, UK, in 1990 by Greg Spawton and Andy Poole, Big Big Train has charted an independent course through the British progressive rock scene, slowly developing a richly arranged blend of electric and acoustic instruments that mixes prog, rock, post-rock, folk and classical in uences. 2009’s The Underfall Yard was the band’s  rst album to feature the powerful vocals of David Longdon, alongside the guitar of Dave Gregory (XTC) and the drums of Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard), since when critical and public acclaim for the band has grown rapidly.The two-volume English Electric (2012-13) further developed Big Big Train’s favourite themes of English history, industry and landscape, and the band won the Prog magazine Breakthrough award in 2013. The following year, the Classic Rock Society awardedBig Big Train their Best Band and Best Track awards, while David Longdon won Best Male Vocalist, a feat he repeated this year.After 17 years as a studio-only outfit, Big Big Train returned to the stage in 2015 with three London performances which topped the Prog magazine Readers’ Poll for Best Event, with several band members also featuring in the instrument sections of the poll. The band has just released Stone & Steel, a Blu-ray featuring songs from the London gigs along with performances recorded in 2014 at Real World Studios. 
    $12.00
  • 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
  • By now everyone knows that Damian Wilson split from Threshold.  Its hard to replace someone like him - what a voice!  The band got creative, reached back into their history and re-enlisted vocalist Glynn Morgan who was a cult favorite from his masterful performance on Psychedelicatessen.  Well Mr. Morgan doesn't disappoint.  The album is a bit sprawling, unraveling over two discs but its one hell of a listen.  Threshold might be taken for granted by some but they are easily, consistently, one of the best prog metal bands on the planet.  Legend Of The Shires blew me away and I think it will you as well.  BUY OR DIE!!"2017 has been a challenging year for Steel‘s favorite prog-minded bands. Pyramaze tried to craft a movie soundtrack of a metal album and crashed on a reef in the treacherous Michael Bay, and Anubis Gate opted for a heavier, darker sound that felt awkward and unrefined. Knowing Threshold had a massive double album inbound filled me with trepidation and worry this downward trend would never get reversed. And Legends of the Shires is nothing if not long, clocking in at over 1 hour and 22 minutes (2 discs, 3 LPs). On top of this, vocalist Damian Wilson jumped ship, to be replaced by former Threshold frontman, Glynn Morgan, who we haven’t heard from since 1994s Psychedelicatessen album. With a daunting run-time and multiple tracks exceeding the 10-minute mark, restraint was obviously jettisoned even before the empty coffee cups from the initial writing session, and “editing” and “trimming” were forbidden concepts. Sounds like a recipe for a big, steaming mess, right? Luckily for us, Threshold is so damn talented because very few bands could pull something like this off as well as they do, throwing Yes and Pink Floyd influences in with 80s commercial rock to make their metal consomme.Things commence with the soft acoustic rock interlude “The Shire (Part 1)” where we get to hear Glynn grace a somber piece that seems to be about the optimism with which we all face life’s possibilities when young. It’s a concise, interesting little number with an emotional performance from Glynn. This segues into the album’s “single,” “Small Dark Lines” which is classic Threshold – heavy, riffy, and super-catchy but still steeped in prog sensibilities. This is the most immediate cut here and exactly the kind of song I want from the band. After that slice of crisp, concise prog-metal they drop the nearly 12-minute “The Man Who Saw Through Time” upon us. It’s a good song full of melancholy moods and surprisingly understated playing, but it also feels overlong and it could easily have been trimmed by 3-5 minutes.The album does well to mix tempos and moods, with more aggressive, punchy tracks like “Trust the Process” and “Snowblind” offsetting rock-oriented, catchy cuts like the hooky “Superior Machine” and “State of Independence.” The big standouts to my ears are “Subliminal Freeways” which is like a mix of metal, gloomy post-rock and I hate to say it, Mike and the Mechanics. It shouldn’t work but it totally does. Mega-long “Lost in Translation” is also surprisingly listenable thanks to a heavy dose of Pink Floyd dynamics and a killer performance by Glynn which slathers the whole thing with pathos and emotion. Sure, it could stand trimming, but it goes by fairly quickly as is.What strikes me hardest is the Shire Trilogy, with “(Part 1)” addressing youthful optimism, and “(Part 2)” finding the protagonist older and growing overwhelmed by life’s struggles and tribulations, losing the hopefulness and confidence of youth as reality grinds him down. “(Part 3)” concludes on a slightly upbeat note that speaks of the resignation of advanced age. It’s depressing as hell but will likely resonate with anyone over 40.The biggest surprise is that with so much music, no song feels like disposable filler. The closest things get is “On the Edge,” which is a bit tepid, but it has an interesting chorus and the heaviness provides a useful tempo shift. Even the super poppy “Stars and Satellites” manages to work, though it feels like it fell off a Japanese-only Mike and the Mechanics EP.As you might expect, the biggest complaint is the song-length. There are multiple cuts that would be strengthened by judicious trimming and snipping. I know prog is by definition an over-the-top, unrestrained style, but even so, there’s no reason for a song to run 7-8 minutes when it’s essentially a slick 5-minute song puffed up by wank (albeit the tasteful variety), as is the case on “Trust the Process” and “Stars and Satellites.” Sound-wise things are great with a slick, clean production. Long though this certainly is, I’m able to to listen to this all the way though and enjoy it, which is saying something.I wasn’t very familiar with Glynn’s era with the band, but he sounds quite a bit like Andrew “Mac” McDermott (R.I.P.) who was my favorite Threshold singer. He has the perfect voice for prog-metal, with plenty of clarity, range and power at his disposal. He’s a more than capable replacement for Damian Wilson and I really love his performance on the more emotive pieces like the Shire Trilogy. Founding guitarist extraordinaire, Karl Groom does his magic once again, mixing crunchy, heavy riffs with polished, classy leads and proggy noodling without ever giving the listener Ramen poisoning. With Richard West (ex-Dragonforce, Power Quest) handling keyboards, the sound is filled out ably without ever sounding cheesy or silly. Such a talented damn band!Threshold have been one of the most dependable and consistent prog-metal bands for decades and their winning streak continues with Legends of the Shires. It isn’t the heaviest or the most tightly written platter, but it’s chock full of accessible, interesting music and songs that will keep you coming back. Scour this shire if you want a rewarding double dose of proggy goodness." - Angry Metal Guy
    $17.00
  • Deluxe mediabook edition with one bonus track."This autumn seems to become a sophisticated season when it comes to progressive metal music. There have been already some quite exciting records that have been published; like the new album from Gazpacho and now there are two German prog bands coming with new albums too. Next to Vanden Plas it is Subsignal that offers a new journey through the world of sound."The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" is the cryptic title of the new long player which is the forth one of the the band that arose out of the ashes of Siege Even. Brain and soul behind the band are guitarist Markus Steffens and singer Arno Menses who started Subsignal as a project in 2007. Things developed very positively and what began as a project became a fix part of the German prog metal scene."The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" isn't build on a conceptual storyline. But there is a red thread through the various tracks on this long player. The overarching theme is about loss and parting.When it comes to the music Subsignal became harder again. The predecessor "Paraiso" was in general a bit softer with some tracks that have been close to AOR. The new album brings back heavier riffs. "Tempest" is a first indicator for this, underlined by songs like "Everything is Lost".But in the end it's not about heavier or softer when it comes to Subsignal's music. It's the band's lambent way of composing great songs that come with big melodies merged with a lot of emotional depth and thoughtfulness. "The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" is full of those attributes and it's the passion for details, that makes Subsignal's sound complex as well as approachable also for non-musicians.This long player is the soundtrack for an exciting journey through eleven new tracks from a band that combines technical capabilities with an outstanding sense for good songs. "The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" belongs to the highlights of 2015 and I would be surprised not finding back the album in some of the 2015 polls." - Markus' Heavy Music Blog 
    $18.00
  • "The first album by Flying Colors got mixed reviews. Some people loved it (I was one of those) whilst others were disappointed that a band that included Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse had made an album that wasn't very "prog." Well, the second album from this band can't be criticised in that way because this is most definitely a prog album. Opening with a 12 minute song, and ending with a 12 minute, three part suite, these are the obvious progressive songs, but most of the shorter songs also mix pop/rock with progressive elements.So, starting at the beginning, Open Up Your Eyes is like a mini-Transatlantic epic, with the first four minutes consisting of an instrumental overture before the vocal come in. There are plenty of swirling keyboards and lead guitar, and Portnoy's characteristic drumming is there too (something that was largely absent from the first album.) The next two tracks are more in a heavy metal style, something not usually to my taste, but certainly Mask Machine has a catchy hook and is an obvious choice for a single. After Bombs Away comes a more straightforward ballad, then the rocker A Place In Your World with some nice guitar riffs and keyboard lines, plus a singalong chorus. Lost Without You is another Power Ballad and the shortest song on the album at under 5 minutes. Then we get to the point at which the album really hits the heights. I defy anyone to listen to the last 3 tracks, one after the other, and not be amazed at the genius of this band. Kicking off with One Love Forever, which has an infectious acoustic guitar riff and a celtic feel, we then move on to what is probably my favourite song on the album. Peaceful Harbour has a beautiful spiritual feel to it, and the beginning and end put me in mind of Mostly Autumn. Finally we have a real gem. Cosmic Symphony is a three part suite with sections approximately three, three and six minutes long. It starts with thunder and rain effects and a simple repeated piano line before vocals, drums and guitar come in. Finally these are joined by a melodic bass line. The second section is more jazz keyboard based and then we move on to the final part which reminded me of REM. The song ends with the same piano line and thunder effects which began it.A superb album, even better than their first and certainly proggier." - ProgArchives
    $6.00
  • 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
  • Prospekt are a British Progressive Metal band influenced by bands such as Dream Theater, Symphony X, Opeth and Circus Maximus, as well as film scores and fusion. Prospekt combine the fierce technicality of progressive metal with the symphonic elements of contemporary prog.From brutal riffs coupled with odd time-signatures, to majestic melodies, the principle of Prospekt’s music is to create an intelligent and atmospheric mix of melodic, modern progressive metal. Incorporating passionate higher ranged vocals, frenetic guitar work, haunting orchestration and solid grooves, every composition remains both interesting and original.The Colourless Sunrise was mixed by  Adam "Nolly" Getgood of Periphery and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street.
    $13.00
  • "Clive Nolan and his Neo-hard rocking companions return for the eighth Arena album in twenty years, `The Unquiet Sky', taking inspiration from (without being a direct interpretation of) M.R James' short story `Casting the Runes'. It's easy to see why the ghostly tale of supernatural intrigue and occult mystery from 1911 would appeal to Mr Nolan, and the album reveals plenty of the sleek and heavy symphonic rock with poetic lyrics that the British band is known for. The previous disc `The Seventh Degree of Separation' was a divisive and somewhat controversial release for a new line-up of the group that now included vocalist Paul Manzi, a transitional album that saw them adopting a more streamlined hard rock/metal sound. But long-time fans of the group will be pleased to know that, while there are still similarities to that previous album here and there, the much-loved symphonic atmospheres the band was known for are given more focus again, meaning a better balance of these two qualities together to create a truly sublime Arena work.Some of the twelve tracks on offer still retain a hard-rock flavour, but everything an Arena fan could hope to discover is all present and accounted for here. After a more low-key performance on the previous album, virtuoso keyboardist/composer Clive Nolan is center stage again over the entire disc. Not only are his exquisite synths constant and upfront, but the artist has also implemented plenty of theatrical and orchestral symphonic textures into the group this time around, his recent work with the `Alchemy' musical being obvious right from the start, and these theatrical flourishes are a perfect fit for the group. Vocalist Manzi made a promising and reliable debut as singer for the group on `...Separation', but here he lifts his game considerably and offers endless more vocal variety. Better worked into the group, he is equally at home with heartfelt ballads, theatre flair and chest-beating rockers, and he has really become a perfect frontman for the band. Kylan Amos from Nolan's own `Alchemy' production replaces bass player and IQ member John Jowitt and makes an impressive debut here, ex-Marillion drummer perfectly drives the music forwards and It Bites/Kino/Lonely Robot guitarist John Mitchell delivers his usual tasteful and commanding guitar flair.Of several of the highlights, listen out for the gleefully wicked and wondrous orchestral pomp that opens the album that could easily be an outtake from Mr Nolan's `Alchemy' show, the infernal and overwhelming church organ intimidation of `The Demon Strikes' and especially the shimmering dark reggae (yes, really!) chimes and sleek electronics of the thrashing `No Chance Encounter', where Kylan's bass really glides. `The Bishop of Lufford' perfectly mixes ghostly gothic mystery with soaring symphonic prog and muscular hard rock (and wait for that hair-tearing heavy finale!). `Oblivious to the Night' is a fragile little piano interlude with whimsical synths and a thoughtful vocal, `Markings on a Parchment' is an eerie dream-like introspective instrumental, and Mitchell's extended guitar solo in the classy title track even brings to mind Nolan's other band Pendragon.Cascading classical piano spirals with snarling brooding guitars in `What Happened Before', and Clive delivers an overload of delirious synth soloing goodness on both `Time is Running Out' and `Returning the Curse' in the best Nolan tradition that his fans always love to hear! `Unexpected Dawn' is a strong ballad with warm Hammond organ and soothing acoustic guitar, and the ambitious seven minute closer `Traveller Beware' finds time for plenty of ghostly gothic tension, punchy plodding heavy riffs, creeping piano and a stirring repeated chorus with a dark lyric.But special mention has to go to glorious power balled entitled `How Did It Come To This?'. It's a glorious emotional tune with a sombre piano melody, delicate orchestration and dreamy lyrics, carried by a perfectly controlled yet soaring vocal from Manzi. A restrained unfolding guitar solo from Mitchell in the middle ensures it may be one of the truly most heartfelt pieces ever to appear on an Arena album, and it's certainly one of their most purely romantic musical statements to date.Along with typically fascinating and surreal proggy cover artwork and a lavish CD booklet (but what a shame there doesn't seem to be a vinyl version in the works so far), `The Unquiet Sky' is one of the most lavish, sophisticated and varied Arena albums to date, and certainly one of their most endlessly melodic. It's a fine return to form for the Neo prog institution, and it really shows what this latest line-up is capable of, so hopefully even more impressive music is to come from the mighty Arena!" - ProgArchives
    $16.00
  • Incredible warehouse find.  Scored a small horde of these and I can pass them on to you at an amazing price."Gamma Ray! Undoubtedly one of the most important names in contemporary, classic Heavy Metal, and thee most respected and influential German band in the genre. Fronted by Kai Hansen, following his departure from Helloween, Gamma Ray has become one of the most prominent bands in European Heavy Metal. "To The Metal" is the 10th studio album in 21 years of worldwide success and a new diamond in their never-ending experimental creativity. The Special Edition contains a bonus DVD in HD with interview, rehearsals, live studio sessions and 3 videoclips."
    $3.00
  • Second album from this superb Italian prog metal band. Long out of print, this new edition is remastered and features four bonus tracks including the original Japanese bonus track, two demos from 1993 and a rehearsal version of "Erase" from 2006. Limited edition of 3,000 copies comes housed in a slipcase and has a poster. One of the killers!
    $12.00