Kosmigroov

"The Doors of Perception, recorded by Dave Pike and his group, is one of the oddest records in his rather exotic -- and utterly hip -- discography.

$7.00
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Before he became an RnB star in the second half of the 70s, Norman Connors had a formidible career as a drummer in the jazz/fusion world.  He played with some serious kats and also had a series of excellent solo albums.  Two of his best albums are Dance Of Magic and Dark Of Light.

$13.00
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This came out of nowhere and was one of the top archival releases of 2016...but it flew under everyone's radar.

$30.00

"Not funk music but a demanding, innovative piece of chamber music and psychedelic avant-garde jazz, Think-Tank-Funk is an unusually daring album to appear in 1973 in Finland. Half-impossible to find on vinyl, the Svart reissue comes added with a fresh interview with Helasvuo.

$21.00

5CD budget priced set collects 5 of Joe Farrell's best work for CTI and is a nice complement to the Moon Germs release.  During his time with CTI Farrell explored electric jazz and early jazz rock sounds.

$23.00
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Some of you may be familiar with sax/flautist Joe Farrell for his work with the original and last incarnation of Return To Forever or for his stint with Elvin Jones.   Farrell had an extensive career and recorded a good chunk of his discography for Creed Taylor's CTI label.

$11.00
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"The career of pianist and composer Heikki Sarmanto spans five decades and has seem him work with various genres from jazz and avantgarde to classical and even opera. His artistic roots lie, however, in the so-called new jazz music of the sixties.

$ 9.00
$ 15.00
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"The career of pianist and composer Heikki Sarmanto spans five decades and has seem him work with various genres from jazz and avantgarde to classical and even opera. His artistic roots lie, however, in the so-called new jazz music of the sixties.

$ 9.00
$ 15.00
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"The career of pianist and composer Heikki Sarmanto spans five decades and has seem him work with various genres from jazz and avantgarde to classical and even opera. His artistic roots lie, however, in the so-called new jazz music of the sixties.

$ 9.00
$ 15.00
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Essential third album from the Mwandishi band. A pure kosmigroov classic in which the ensemble touches on African based rhythms and electric fusion.

$24.00
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  • 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
  • Hyperdrive marks a new era for Knight Area.  The long running Dutch progressive rock band had previously released four studio albums and toured Europe and USA extensively, performing at all major prog rock festivals.  1n 2012 the band welcomed guitarist Mark Bogert as well as legendary bassist Peter Vink (Q65, Finch, Ayreon) into the fold. With these newcomers onboard, Knight Area introduced a heavier element and fuller sound to their repertoire.  All the classic symphonic rock traits of their previous albums are still clearly evident but the songs on Hyperdrive are more immediate and concise.The band invited noted prog guitarist Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon, Star One) to participate as a special guest on one track.  Joost van den Broek, who is known for his production work with Epica, Mayan, and After Forever, mixed the album.   Rounding out the package is startling artwork by Gustavo Sazes.
    $14.00
  • OH MY GOD!!! This Polish band sounds so much like Riverside that the album must have been written with tracing paper. No wonder - Riverside vocalist Mariusz Duda was an original member of Xanadu years ago. The band broke up but Xanadu's drummer put together a new version of the band in 2008.Not original in any way shape or form but if you want something to tide you over until the next Riverside disc arrives maybe this will scratch your itch. Its well done - just not one original idea here.  Probably the best of all the Riverside clones.
    $3.00
  • 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
  • My Soliloquy is a British band formed in 2002 by multi-instrumentalist Pete Morten.  Since then the band has released a number of demos, gaining traction in the metal underground. The band had a number of notable support shows with Pagans Mind, Power Quest, Oliver and Rick Wakeman, and Threshold, as well as a second-to-headline set at Bloodstock 05 and a showcase at 2007’s ProgPower UK II.Since 2007, Morten has been an active member of British prog metal legends Threshold.  His membership has raised awareness (and created anticipation) for My Soliloquy’s long awaited debut.The essence of My Soliloquy is pure forward thinking metal – symphonic keyboards, shredding guitar leads, soaring vocals – all finely woven together with a blend of intricacy and melody.  The Interpreter was mixed and mastered by Rob Aubrey who has been a mainstay of Marillion’s camp for many years.
    $5.00
  • Withem is an up and coming Norwegian progressive metal band, inspired by the likes of Symphony X, Pagan’s Mind, Dream Theater and Circus Maximus.The band started to take shape in 2011 when Øyvind Voldmo Larsen (guitars) and Ketil Ronold (keyboards) met the gifted drummer Frank Nordeng Røe. Soon they were joined by the vocal talents of Ole Aleksander Wagenius and bass duties were taken care of by the special guest Andreas Blomqvist from Seventh Wonder.Withem’s debut offers varied sonic landscapes for the listener to explore, ranging from guilty-pleasure choruses permeated with memorable vocal hooks, to symphonic epic themes.  The unique vocal range of Ole Aleksander Wagenius gives the band a distinctive touch to tackle the overcrowded progressive metal scene.The passion and dedication put into the album is emphasized by the countless hours spent in studio perfecting each individual performance and making sure that the end result is a world class blend of progressive, symphonic and power metal.The Point Of You was mastered by Markus Teske (Vanden Plas, Saga, Spock's Beard)
    $13.00
  • Now here is a band that singlehandedly may be turning prog metal on its head and giving it a good kick in the ass at the same time.Need is a Greek prog metal band that has been around for a bit but like most bands from that country they don't get much attention outside of their homeland.  Orvam is their third album and it finds them stepping up their game quite a bit.Orvam: A Song For Home blends a variety of influences and dishes up something completely mesmerizing.  The band's musical DNA includes Fates Warning, Tool, Nevermore, and lots of prog rock.  All of these influences will crop up but tossed together in a unique way.  Its heavy but complex - ethereal and hypnotic.  Hell the band even weaves in some Mediterranean themes revealing their real roots.  Vocalist Jon V. is the anchor to the musical and he does a phenomenal job, sounding like vintage Ray Alder.  I love how amid all the grinding guitar riffs the band mixes a splash of old school Hammond organ.  Cap this monster off with the 18 minute title piece and you've got an instant classic.  The whole production was expertly mixed by Neil Kernon and masterfully mastered by Alan Douches.  BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • 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
  • Big Big Train have ascended to the top echelon of progressive rock bands currently active.  They are easily the best band coming out of the UK - the fountainhead of all prog rock."Is there a nicer feeling than when you discover that one of your favourite bands is to return with new material much sooner than predicted and somewhat unexpectedly? There aren’t many better moments that’s for sure and Big Big Train are the architects of this great piece of news, offering us their tenth album ‘Grimspound’ less than 12 months on from the release of the utterly sensational ‘Folklore’.Long term readers will perhaps be familiar with that review, where I was quoted as saying that “‘Folklore’ is another amazing addition to the Big Big Train discography and is something all lovers of quality progressive rock should cherish and take to their hearts. I know that I have.”However, the feelings of levity and excitement about such a speedy a follow-up are, for me, tempered ever so slightly by a few more cautious thoughts. ‘Is it too early for more material?’, ‘has this album been hurried?’, ‘will the quality take a hit?’ You can see where I’m going with this. I worry that speed doesn’t always yield positive results and therefore, whilst I’m like a child at Christmas following this news, I have a few nerves as well. ‘Folklore’ remains on heavy rotation at the Mansion of Much Metal (and Progressive Rock), providing the same levels of magic as it did at the time of its release. The bar has been set and I desperately want ‘Grimspound’ to follow suit.So, does it?The answer, after a slightly slow start is ‘yes, very much so’. At the outset though, I wasn’t convinced if I’m honest. I was looking for similar heart-stopping moments to those that featured within the likes of ‘Brooklands’ or ‘Winkie’ and I couldn’t find them initially. But that says more about my levels of patience than it does about the music on offer within ‘Grimspound’ because, with time, those moments of genius are there to be found and to be heard. In fact, this entire record borders on genius as far as I’m concerned now. How else can you explain the fact that these eight musicians have returned so quickly and effortlessly with another eight superb, intricate and captivating progressive rock compositions?I understand that the band came up with an awful lot of material during the ‘Folklore’ writing sessions and some of what we hear on ‘Grimspound’ was given birth back then. But regardless, the achievement here beggars belief, it really does. Take a bow, Messrs Spawton (bass), Poole (guitars/keyboards), Longdon (vocals/flute), D’Virgilio (drums), Gregory (guitars), Manners (keyboards), Hall (violin) and Sjöblom (guitars/keyboards). You deserve it.Big Big Train have always followed a path of progressive rock that veers down the pastoral route and they probably always will – it’s in their blood. But this is not a group of musicians to stagnate either. So, whilst the music here is recognisable as Big Big Train, there are some differences to be heard between ‘Grimspound’ and previous albums.Some of this is down to the fact that newer members, Rikard and Rachel along with Danny have become more active in the song writing process, bringing their own unique view points to the table. And it is testament to the open-mindedness of the other members that this has been allowed to happen. Mind you, I think ‘welcomed with open arms’ would be a more appropriate description.One of the first things that I notice is that ‘Grimspound’ features very little brass. As someone who genuinely intensely dislikes brass within rock or metal music, I must confess that I am ever so slightly torn by this turn of events. For some reason, I never had a problem with the brass element of Big Big Train and so, once you realise how little of it is evident, it does give the music a slightly different flavour overall.As the band readily admits in the accompanying press release, ‘Grimspound’ also sees Big Big Train experimenting with longer passages of instrumental expression. So it comes as no surprise to learn that ‘On The racing Line’ for example is a five-minute instrumental piece, whilst other compositions have plenty of space for some indulgent instrumental flamboyance. Normally, I would baulk at the notion but where Big Big Train are concerned, they pull it off with style and elegance. Their music has always had the ability to tell a story and this is true whether or not there are lyrics being sung over the music; the dynamics and ideas at play here within the instrumental passages are such that the stories are able to continue very eloquently.Another interesting addition this time around is with the inclusion of a guest vocalist on the song ‘The Ivy Gate’. Judy Dyble offers her voice within this quite a dark and powerful composition that concerns “the reported sightings of a ghostly apparition beside the cemetery gates in a quiet English village.” It is an intriguing composition that begins with a folky, bluegrass banjo-led melody that initially I railed against. In the context of the song however, it makes a lot of sense and is a wonderful addition to the band’s armoury. Moreover, it is an ingredient that I have grown to rather like and enjoy.The violin playing of Rachel Hall is beautiful and I embrace the sadness and atmosphere that is conjured within this track. But even more, I love the way in which the song builds and opens up at the 4:30 mark to deliver a sumptuous melody that is made even more powerful by the duet of Longdon and Dyble that joins it, before the track deconstructs to end with some impressive and emotional vocals and the soothing sound of rain falling.It seems like I am uncontrollably waxing lyrical about this album, but that can’t be helped I’m afraid, with every positive word being well earned and justified. And it must continue I’m afraid.The opening few moments of ‘Brave Captain’ and indeed the album as a whole, create a very subtle, ambient soundscape, very introspective and thought-provoking at the same time. After a minute or so, the entire band enters the fray in what becomes a rousing and dynamic piece of music. This is arguably the most immediate track on the album but in true Big Big Train fashion, it ebbs and flows throughout its substantial 12 minute life creating a sense of drama upon which they tell the powerful story of a World War One pilot named Captain Albert Ball who gave his life for his country.Naturally, given the subject matter, there are moments that convey the sobriety of the story, like the almost Dire Straits-esque piano and bluesy guitar section. But equally, there are also times where the musicians open up their wings and take flight, just like the central character in the song. When they do so, it is quite a heady experience and it is easy to get caught up in the music that swells all around you.Another favourite is the quite stunning ‘Experimental Gentlemen’, a tale of Captain Cook on his first journey of discovery. Incorporating a vast array of intricate ideas within a remarkably cohesive whole, it moves from gentle, dreamy and wistful to up-beat and bouncy. You can feel an increase in intensity as the song slowly and inexorably moves through the gears to eventually deliver a dramatic sequence complete with an emotional and delicate lead guitar solo. That’s not the end though as there’s time for an extended atmospheric outro that has a subtle yet moving feel to it.Arguably the biggest exponent of those aforementioned extended instrumental passages is the longest track on the album, the hugely impressive ‘A Mead Hall In Winter’. The melodies are just so strong that they draw me in for repeated listens in spite of its length, rivalling anything that appeared on ‘Folklore’. But it is the experimentation and the ambition that is the most impressive aspect, including a plethora of bold and striking keyboard sounds as well as plenty of lead flamboyance all round. It all helps to create genuinely rich and engaging textures not to mention a multi-faceted, multi-layered soundscape. This sort of music only works when it is handled with care and attention to detail. And Big Big Train are fast becoming the safest pair of hands that I know, turning everything to gold with their unique Midas touch. My mind never wanders, my attention is never diverted away and as this epic composition draws to a close via a reprise of the early sumptuous melodies, I am filled with nothing but admiration for what has been achieved here.By contrast, ‘Meadowland’ is a much shorter proposition that benefits from a truly gorgeous lead violin and acoustic guitar intro, full of sensitivity and elegance. The wistful vocal delivery of Longdon adds a compelling embellishment to a piece of music that straddles the divide between folk and progressive rock, that I wish was twice as long.The title track begins in strange fashion with an oddly creepy and discordant introduction, quickly replaced by more acoustic guitars. Another serious grower, I’m currently of the opinion that it contains my very favourite melody on the entire album, accompanied by the words:“Out on the Heathland,Look up to the night sky.See the second brightest star?Adjust to the dark light.”The vocals and music together combine in magical fashion to stop me dead in my tracks. But I also enjoy the way in which the track subtly moves away from its starting point, to finish with more instrumental prowess in a much different and more up-tempo vein. The closing vocal passage is inspired too.Seeing as I’ve mentioned all the others, it seems churlish to overlook the closing composition, ‘As The Crow Flies’. It ends ‘Grimspound’ in fine fashion, fittingly oozing warmth and richness. It begins in delicate fashion, featuring more female vocals and some really welcome flute from Longdon. At the mid-point, the composition explodes in typically controlled but epic fashion, delivering a briefly rousing and heartfelt melody, led by hungry guitar notes that retreat all-too-quickly, allowing the song to ease to a gentle and introspective conclusion.Just when you thought that Big Big Train couldn’t possibly get any better, they do. ‘Grimspound’ is without doubt the best progressive rock album I’ve heard since…well, since ‘Folklore’ to be exact. Big Big Train have become an integral part of my musical life, to the point where I cannot imagine what my life was like before I discovered them. Right now, I can’t think of any bigger compliment that I can pay or one that is more justified and thoroughly deserved. Without question, Big Big Train are my favourite progressive rock band on this planet, bar none." - Man Of Metal blog
    $12.00
  • Now here is a beautiful slice of contemporary progressive rock.  Anubis is an underrated band from Australia - bands down under don't seem to get the attention they deserve.  Hitchhiking is their third full length album.  2011's A Tower Of Silence was a big hit around here and frankly when it arrived it came as a huge surprise.  This long awaited follow up reinforces that the prog rock world needs to take notice.  The music has a cinematic Floyd-like feel.  Vocals from Robert James Moulding are emotion driven and have plenty of impact.  This is not a band who's music is filled with tons of soloing but what's here is solid.  In other words this is not old school prog - its very forward thinking but with a modern sound.  Highly recommended."I have long dreamt of an Australian progressive rock album that would inspire me to click the repeat button, in order to drift through its world all over again, and I am happy to declare that Hitchhiking to Byzantium has been on constant rotation for weeks at this point. Bringing an enchanting blend of Floydian melancholy and the energy of Rush to the table, Anubis have come to stake their claim as heavyweights in the Oz scene with their third opus.Whilst being equally impressed with their 2011 album A Tower of Silence (which I have only just heard recently also), I have found myself returning to Byzantium more to explore the subtle nuances contained within the album’s ten tracks. ‘Fadeout’ as an opening diddy is like riding a gentle breeze for just a short while before being swept up in all the drama and opulence of ‘A King with No Crown’, a reference quality track on every level, cinematic in scope and full of drama and tension and certainly an inspired choice as opening single for the album. ‘Dead Trees’ is a classic prog cut with all the bells and whistles sporting a vocal performance that harkens to a young James Labrie and a chorus that will have you by the balls from the first time you hear it.I mentioned a notable influence from Floyd and Rush earlier, but if I was to be honest, I would love to ask them if they are fans of American prog band Tiles and those wonderful Brits Anathema, because both bands are called to mind on this album amongst others like Sweden’s Anekdoten. The title track is a sublime centrepiece and features a plaintive aura that is sent soaring when spine-tingling female backing vocals lace the chorus. It’s so hard to choose a favourite song when they are all so filled with creamy goodness, but any of these three  - ‘Blood is Thicker than Common Sense’ (a seductive groover), ‘Tightening of the Screws’ (a majestic slice of melancholia reminiscent of early The Pineapple Thief) or ‘Partitionists’ (a lyrical and musical marvel) - could easily take the title for this humble listener.The final triptych features dark drama in ‘Crimson Stained Romance’, a song that reminded me most of a classic Floyd epic, the 15+ minute ‘A Room with a View’, which is nothing short of a sweeping symphony of moods and tones and the closing ‘Silent Wandering Ghosts’ sounds exactly like its title would suggest, haunting and transcendent with an outro to die for.These seven talented lads are a gifted lot, with every performance of outstanding quality, enhanced by a jaw-dropping production that let’s every instrument tell its own little story and play its part in this emotionally resonant work that as the band state themselves: "I feel that there's more of us in there - the hurdles that life throws at us and the only way to feel true inner peace - by examining the love around you. It's certainly an introspective record - but it's real life. It's about you, it's about me, it's about all of us. Hitchhiking to Byzantium. That journey is life."And somehow I believe them." - Loud Mag
    $15.00
  • "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 California based prog metal band with ties to Redemption. The Tragedy Of Innocence is a far more mature and developed release than their debut. It's a conceptual work dealing with a very heavy subject - Valerie Quirarte (wife of drummer Chris) and her experience with child abuse. The music is a reflection of the story - its darker and more intense. All in all Prymary are a progmetal band. You can expect some serious complex arrangements and stand out playing. Kudos to the band for tackling a difficult subject and also jumping up to the next level musically. Recommended.
    $2.00
  • "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
  • ""It has happened to me twice here in 2009. You stumble upon a band that you have never heard of which totally blows you away. The first time was with the band Anima Mundi out of Cuba. Now, it has happened a second time.From Germany comes the band AtmOsfear with their third release called Zenith. After hearing this one, I am now they have me on a mad search for their past two discs. I cannot believe that they have been ignored by the prog metal world if the past music is as good as this album. Any fan of groups such as Dream Theater, Symphony X or Evergrey whom they have shared a stage with, are in for a treat that is the equal of any of these bands.The disc kind of lulls you in with the short instrumental intro titled "Beginnings". Aptly titled as this is only the start of what is about to fill your senses. The five remaining songs fill the remaining 70 minutes of music and it culminates in the almost 30 minute epic "Spiral Of Pain". Along the way you are treated to a group of five musicians that can hold their own with anyone you would like to name. Stephan Kruse on keyboards, vocalist Oliver Wulff, bassist Burkhart Heberle along with drummer Tim Schnabel and guitarist Boris Stepanow form one of the most dynamic group of musicians ever assembled. They seem to draw off each other and interweave their individual talents into one of the best musical offerings of 2009 or any year for that matter.When music has the power to make you stop what you are doing and listen then you know you have something special. As the very metal opening to "Loss Of Hope" hit me I perked up the ears. When the vocals started, I knew this was no run of the mill offering. Then as the band swelled to their full magnitude, I was completely absorbed. Who are these guys? It is still amazing that music of this caliber can fly under the radar for this long. All you have to do is listen to the exchange between the keyboards and guitars during the extended instrumental section of this song and you will become a fan without a doubt. These guys are the real deal.I have been trying to think of what I can tell you are the highlights of this disc. Well it could be the terrific instrumental piece "Reawakening" with its powerful piano that sets a mood that the guitar plays off of so well, or it may be the enthralling "Generations" which is a roller coaster ride of sound. Then there is the edgy "Scum Of Society" which shows that they are as powerful lyrically as they are musically. Of course all this is setting you up for the epic "Spiral Of Pain" where they take you on a 30 minute quest for musical perfection. They leave nothing on the table as this vast work captures all that we prog metal lovers dream of. Intoxicating from beginning to end this is a classic piece of art. Where Michelangelo used many different mediums to project his art, AtmOsfear similarly uses many different musical approaches to convey their message, melancholy when called for, melodic where needed, brooding and harsh as the story calls for and totally mesmerizing throughout.This is a must have disc. For anyone who has a love of great music this is one that needs to be given a chance. You will not be disappointed." - Sea Of Tranquility
    $3.00