Restless Amoeba’s Top Albums of 2020 (albums 1-25)

And here is my part 2 of my top 50 for 2020. My absolute favorite first. These aren’t all prog but i have labeled each one as to “prog or not” so those of you looking for the strictly prog entries, that should make them easier to find.

Again, this disclaimer: There seems to be a consensus around these parts that numbered lists are detrimental. I know bands like being able to say “We were number 1” but just because a band on my list is in the 18th slot, or even the 40th, doesn’t necessarily mean I love it more or less than the ones on either side. So… no numbers for you! ;-p Just know that the ones toward the top of this list are probably the ones that I played more and got just a tad bit more enjoyment out of than the ones further down. But I do love all the ones on this list.

I am including a link to one song each on youtube and the album’s bandcamp page if they have one.

Thomas Bergersen – Humanity – Chapter 1 (Symphonic/Cinematic)

One of the main driving forces behind Two Steps From Hell has been hard at work on, what I can only describe as, a solo project. He released two parts of what will be a 7 part series based on the subject of Humanity. This just popped out of nowhere this year but was easily the most emotionally moving thing I heard all year. This thing is perfection from start to finish. He plans on releasing the series on CD as a boxed set once all parts are released.



Thomas Bergersen – Humanity – Chapter 2 (Symphonic/Cinematic)

Totally wasn’t expecting the 2nd part to be released this year (but was hoping). But he released it. And it is glorious, if only slightly less so than the 1st part. But my favorite track from this series (so far) is on this one: We are Legends. Which I am now finding is blocked in the US on youtube for some reason. So, another track is below.



Scardust – Strangers (Symphonic Prog Metal)

I have a feeling I was aware of this bands last release but wasn’t fully sure… but it really didn’t matter as this one just blew me away this year. Its a crazy one but rocks and has some beautiful moments as well.

https://scardust.bandcamp.com/album/strangers



Brother Firetribe – Feel the Burn (Melodic Rock)

Once again, Brother Firetribe has knocked it out of the park. Also once again, it is an album that didn’t grab me much on first listen but grew to become one of my favorites of the year. The same thing happened with the last one. Which is odd since they are immediately catchy and make you just sing along with them. One of my absolute favorite songs of the year is Bring on the Rain.



One Desire – Midnight Empire (Melodic Rock)

I remember really liking their last album, but man, this one came out swinging this year and grabbed me right out of the gate. Absolutely drenched in beautiful melodies and harmonies.



Eric Clayton – A Thousand Scars (Rock)

This one is intensely special to me and I know the singing style isn’t for everyone as Eric can get very operatic. But his is a voice that just clicked with me back when I first heard Saviour Machine and he has been responsible for some of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. And that continues on this release. It is an extremely emotional album and very intense in nature at times. This year has brought a lot of crap, but it also brought some great things. One of which was hearing Eric like he hasn’t missed a beat. Brought back so many memories but also forging new ones. Now I await the new Saviour Machine. Below is the epic final track from this release:

https://ericclaytonandthenine.bandcamp.com/album/a-thousand-scars



Ani Lo Projekt – A Time Called Forever (Symphonic Prog Metal)

Yet another band I wasn’t aware of until this year and checked all the boxes for me. The sound is like part Trans-Siberian Orchestra, part Sanctuary, and all melody and metal.



Waltari – Global Rock (Everything)

Keeping with the theme of my “favorite albums this year are from bands I didn’t know existed prior to hearing them”, comes this band from Finland that incorporates almost every style in existence into their music (Country, rap, death metal… you name it, it is probably on here). This is the very definition of all over the place. But it is excitingly so. And up beat! Below is a track that reminds me a lot of Faith No More.



Chaos Magic – Desert Rose (Symphonic Metal/Rock)

An EP of 4 cover songs, that I personally think are fantastic. I know some might not be able to get over the style differences from the originals but I appreciate what they did hear and would love to hear more like it. That said, the original Ordinary World by Duran Duran will always be the one definitive version to me and therefore the best, but I do love to hear this version too!



Royal Hunt – Dystopia (Prog Metal)

Late comer to the year but immediately grabbed me right off the bat. And it is an unusual one as DC Cooper doesn’t sing on all that many songs here. But he sounds fantastic on the ones he is on and so do the guests. Some fantastic symphonic moments here and some definite sing along choruses.



Different Light – Binary Suns Part 1 (Prog Rock)

Umm… what do you get if REO Speedwagon was prog? This. You get this. Fantastically awesome album.

https://progressivegears.bandcamp.com/album/binary-suns-part-1



Enzo and the Glory Ensemble – in the Name of the World Spirit (Prog Metal)

Very theatrical, which is right up my alley. Lots of different genre influences here too. One of their best releases for me so far.



Dead End Finland – Inter Vivos (Melodic Death Metal)

Fantastic melodic metal with some great use of growls. Very much reminds me of Scar Symmetry. But they are their own thing too. This is scratching that Scar Symmetry itch very nicely. Has loads of harmony and melody.

https://deadendfinland.bandcamp.com/album/inter-vivos

 

Orbit Culture – Nija (Melodic Death Metal)

Never heard of this band before this year, but holy crap, what an introduction. Melodic Death Metal with hints of Metallica. Catchy and brutal. Love it!

https://orbitculture.bandcamp.com/album/nija



Kansas – The Absence of Presence (Prog Rock)

Wow. Who knew Kansas could still keep coming out with fantastic music and still sound like Kansas! And mostly written by the new guy! This album just keeps getting better.

https://kansasband.bandcamp.com/album/the-absence-of-presence



Nightwish – Human Nature (Symphonic Metal)

I was highly anticipating this release because, full disclosure, Nightwish is my favorite band. They just tick all the boxes for me in what I look for in music. That said, while I love this album, it isn’t my favorite of theirs. There is some great stuff on it, but there are a few missteps. I think they “overcorrected” in the “doesn’t use Floor properly” department. It just feels like there are a lot of forced melodies in the vocal lines at times. And the last track on the 1st disc just doesn’t feel like an album closer… which it isn’t because there is a second disc. But the second disc seems more like a Tuomas solo project rather than Nigthwish. So, I love it, but not my favorite of the year. My favorite song on it is this one:



Pyramaze – Epitaph (Melodic Metal)

Pyramaze released another great slice of melodic metal. Though this one is more focused on the melody this time around.



Burden of Life – The Makeshift Conquerer (Melodic Death Prog Metal)

This album is fantastically all over the place too but never losing sight of the song. Yep, there are growls. But also a lot of melody.

https://burdenoflife.bandcamp.com/album/the-makeshift-conqueror

 

Ghost Toast – Shape Without Form (Instrumental Prog Rock/Metal)

Progressive, (mostly)Instrumental prog rock/metal that just… well… rocks. This is some catchy, hook laden stuff right here. And the samples work really well with the songs too. Very moody. Full album length below. Why not?

https://ghosttoastband.bandcamp.com/album/shape-without-form-2020



Zio – Flower Toriana (Prog Rock)

I bought this one without knowing what it was going to sound like. Something I RARELY do nowadays. But it had the great Halley Griffiths (Ex-Karnataka) so I had to. And it did NOT disappoint. This is one of the more lively and upbeat albums this year and knows how to let the prog out.



Silent Skies – Satellites (Cinematic/Orchestral)

Ever wanted to hear Tom Englund (Evergrey/Redemption) in a more stripped back, orchestral/cinematic context? Well, here is your chance. He has teamed up with Vikram Shankar (multi-instrumentalist/songwriter from Lux Terminus and most recently, keys for Redemption) and came up with an excellent album of songs to take you through a gamut of emotions. Included here is a cover of Evergrey’s Distance with a completely different feel as well as an excellent cover of Here Comes the Rain Again by Eurythmics. I can listen to Tom sing the phonebook and Vikram’s keys are always glorious.



Dynazty – The Dark Delight (Power Metal)

Not so sure it is exactly power metal, but it is metal and there is a lot of power. So there is that! These songs are drenched in melody and harmony and hooks for miles. What is not to love.

 



Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant (Prog Metal)

Rise Radiant is another logical step in the band’s evolution. While the core of what make them them is still present, you can hear along the way through their discography that they seem to ever inch their way heavier and heavier and this album is no exception. There are some fantastically heavier moments on this one but still some of their signature softer ones.



Moon Halo – Chroma (Prog Rock)

A very synth heavy, 80’s style pop/rock album with prog tendencies. I love these albums that come out of nowhere for me and just get their hooks in. The melodies, harmonies, and lush orchestrations really shot this one to the top of my favorites for the year. 

https://moonhalomusic.bandcamp.com/releases



Lunatic Soul (Prog Rock/Folk)

Lunatic Soul albums have never really grabbed me much like Riverside has, though I have liked some songs. But this album, with its more folk direction and acoustic/percussive elements had me hooked from the start. Think I’ll go back and revisit the LS discography soon an see if I still feel like I did before.

Well… there ya go. If you made it this far, I thank you for giving this list some time and and let me know your thoughts too! What were some of YOUR favorite albums this year?

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Restless Amoeba’s Top Albums of 2020 (albums 26-50)

I don’t even know where to begin here. I just checked back and saw the last album I reviewed was in May. MAY! I swear it seems like one month has passed since then. But also feels like an eternity. With everything going on, I just couldn’t muster up the words to put down for my feelings on albums after that point this year.

But I DID keep listening to music. And a LOT of music. Mostly new. There are so many releases each week that it usually takes me over a week to get through all the new stuff. All total, it seems I listened to 1800 artists this year, plus or minus whatever. The vast majority of it didn’t click with me at all. So, just know… I am somewhat picky, but picky by my own tastes.

So with that, be forewarned, I don’t ONLY listen to prog. So my list has a bit of everything in it. For those that are prog purists (and there is nothing wrong with that) I have placed a label once again next to each artist’s name to show what genre they basically fit in. So if it doesn’t say “prog” in some form, it probably isn’t.

Also, a disclaimer. There seems to be a consensus around these parts that numbered lists are detrimental. I know bands like being able to say “We were number 1” but just because a band on my list is in the 18th slot, doesn’t necessarily mean I love it more or less than the ones on either side. So… no numbers for you! ;-p Just know that the ones toward the top of this list are probably the ones that I played more and got just a tad bit more enjoyment out of than the ones further down. But I do love all the ones on this list.

Also… I was going to cull this list down but decided… screw it! Here it is… my top 50!

 

Part one! So, 25 in this first round…

Lol. Also, also… I am including a link to one song each on youtube and the album’s bandcamp page if they have one.



Lionville – Magic Is Alive (Melodic Rock)

Cheesy? Yep. Gloriously melodic? Also yep. Had this one looping for days after it came out. Definitely satisfies that “80s cheesy rock” itch to a T.



Lost Symphony – Chapter 1 (Instrumental Classical Metal)

Hey! Look! Another band I haven’t heard of before this year! They released Chapters 1 and 2 this year. But Chapter 1 just grabbed me from the start. This thing rocks completely the F out. So freaking good. Lots of guests on here: Bumblefoot, Jeff Loomis, David Ellefson, Angel Vivaldi, among others…



Amahiru – Amahiru (Prog Metal)

A friend introduced me to this band this year and it immediately grabbed me with it strong power metal mixed with Shinedown vibe (yeah, I like Shinedown too… primarily early Shinedown). And Elize Ryd from Amaranthe guesting on one track doesn’t hurt either.



Katatonia – City Burials (Prog Metal)

More in the prog rock vein, the band deliver another fantastic and somber album. Some beautiful stuff in here.

https://peaceville.bandcamp.com/album/city-burials



Archon Angel – Fallen (Power/Prog Metal)

Another that grew on me over the year, but became a favorite. No, they aren’t Savatage, but man, the spirit of Savatage is there. And with Zak out front, its the closest we are going to get to Savatage for a while… maybe? There is a lot going on here to take in, so if it doesn’t grab you at first, give it time. Some great songs here.



Genus Ordinis Dei – Glare of Deliverance (Symphonic Death Metal)

I went into this one not know what to expect… well, expecting to not dig it actually as it takes something special for me to get on board with a mostly growl affair, but get on board I did with this. The Symphonic part is fantastic, the growls are the type that I can dig, and music overall is very beautiful when not brutal. Their videos that go with this are a bit weird though. Closet thing I can compare this to is MaYaN but without the glorious female vocals.



Mindtech – Omnipresence (Prog/Power Metal)

Another one that is kind of scratching that Scar Symmetry itch. The main vox can get a little iffy for me, but not to the point to keep me from listening to it. The melody and harmony win out.



Oceans of Slumber (Metal)

While the last album has one of my favorite songs ever in The Banished Heart, I overall love this album as a whole, more. The songs are more solid and Cammie just gets better and better.



Paralydium – Worlds Beyond (Prog Metal)

Hard to stand out in this particular genre anymore. But these guys did just that, while also showing their influences well. Shades of Dream Theater but also Teramaze.



Brothers of Metal – Emblas Saga (Symphonic Metal)

Symphonic power metal with lots of harmony and anthemic choruses really hit all the right notes for me. Loved the Celtic stylings and fist pumping rockers. 



Tony Mitchell – Church of a Restless Soul (Melodic Rock)

Ok. There are just too many great releases this year. Another one drenched in melodies and hooks for miles. This one was a great step up from his last release and reminds me of what Bon Jovi could sound like if Bon Jovi could still release good music.



Karfagen – Birds of Passage (Prog Rock)

A terrifically performed, old school, prog rock album. Evoking memories of 70’s Yes, among others from that era. Two big epics are present, but are really just two parts of the same song. This is a very enjoyable album.


https://antonykalugin.bandcamp.com/album/birds-of-passage-high-res-24bit-48



Delain – Apocalypse and Chill (Symphonic Metal)

Delain ramped it up a bit with this release. I liked the last couple of albums well enough, but didn’t love them. This one is so catchy just about all the way through. Taking all their strongest points and emphasizing them. 


https://delain.bandcamp.com/



Thematic – Skyrunner ( Alt Prog Rock)

The band has an airy sound which I really dig. And has a bit of a throw back to the better parts of the 90’s rock sound, but updated… with some djentiness.



Chronus – Idols (Rock/Metal)

More melodic stuff from Sweden. The singer here has strong resemblance to Ozzy, which i like and really works here.

https://listenable-records.bandcamp.com/album/idols



Black Stone Cherry – The Human Condition (Rock)

Now, this is a band that I have been aware of for a long time but never gave a chance as I always thought they were like a bar rock kind of band. But that clearly isn’t the case and it wound up being a very catchy album with relatable themes. I found myself getting more drawn in the more I listened. And the cover of Don’t Bring Me Down by ELO was a nice surprise that sold it too. These guys are some excellent musicians to boot!

https://blackstonecherry.bandcamp.com/album/the-human-condition



Nuclear Power Trio – A Clear and Present Rager (Instrumental Metal)

Regardless of political affiliations, this EP is an excellent slice of metal. And the song titles are hilarious. But the songs are catchy as hell.

https://nuclearpowertrio.bandcamp.com/album/a-clear-and-present-rager



Allen/Olzon – Worlds Apart (Metal)

I’ve gotten to where I approach Frontiers releases with a bit of trepidation. There is just so much released and of varying quality that it is a bit difficult to get excited about it all. But hey, the more the merrier I guess. If I don’t like it, I’m sure someone will! But we aren’t here to talk about what I DIDN’T like. Another album that didn’t quite grab me upon first listen but grew with repeated spins until I loved it. Lots of power and emotion on this one and Annette does a fantastic job.



Nicumo – Inertia (Gothic Metal)

A recurrent theme with me: another band (from Finland no less) that I wasn’t aware of but grabbed me out of the gate. Love their Katatonia/Disillusion vibe. Definitely a gothic vibe. Full album below.


https://nicumo.bandcamp.com/album/inertia



Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio 2 – Executing the Classics (Ummm… heavy rock? lol)


Can’t go wrong with Jorn. And he nails it here with some fantastic cover choices.

 



Haken – Virus (Prog Metal)

A great album overall that I enjoyed more than a few times this year. But the highlight of the album is definitely that Messiah suite.



Tarja – Extra Raw (Symphonic Metal)

One of the best things Tarja has released in a while. And it is sort of a leftovers album. The whole things is just so darn catchy!



Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want to Live? (Prog/Post Rock)

Loved all the grooves on this one. They encompass all the things I love about post rock.



Osyron – Foundations (Symphonic Metal)

Another one that came out of nowhere for me this year. Sort of old school metal but they know how to make the big choruses and the huge symphonic sound. Only complaint I have is it is too short.



Acute Mind – Under the Empty Sky (Prog Metal)

And another surprise for me this year. A friend introduced me to these guys and I thank him for it. A great variety on here with an bit of a 90s metal feel at times. And one of the best guitar solos I heard this year in the song It’s Not Me.

 

Stay tuned for Part two!

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Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 23

 

 

 

There’s been a few releases that I haven’t reviewed but do deserve to be brought to your attention. The first is the second album by Our Oceans, “While Time Disappears.” The band were known as Exivous, an all instrumental prog metal outfit. They remade themselves into a melodic vocal driven modern prog band. Their self titled album was a favorite of mine. I mentioned at the time that it would be interesting if they were to merge the styles.

Mainman Tymon Kruidenier replied to me with a grin. It turns out Our Oceans were about to evolve, and “While Time Disappears” takes the melody of the bands first album with the tension and metallic sheen of Exivous. While the album is different, it does still sound like the same band if not just a wee bit more aggressive. Yes the Cynic connection still comes thru in the music and if you liked either of the band’s previous work, this might be the best of both worlds.

Remember Navigator? They were a duo from North Carolina that I pushed a lot when they released their amazing EP “Ghostwood.” Yes I thought they were done but it turns out they are also reborn. Navigator is now called Hyco. Why? Try Googling the name “Navigator.” So yes Hyco is more unique. With that the band have a new EP called “Leylines.”

It’s fair to say if, like me, you loved “Ghostwood” you will love this EP. Frontman Nick Marcone can still SING and the band write catchy songs with thick riffs. But it’s not just the TesseracT meets Porcupine Tree vibe that they were (and still are) known for. The closing track “Long Goodbye to Heaven” shows a folky side to them! Who knew? And it proves that Hyco can do many things. If they wanted to take over the world, they could!

Finally on a completely unrelated note, Soilwork have released an EP that culls their recent trilogy of singles under the “Feverish” concept and adds two new songs. The EP is called “A Whisp Of The Atlantic” which is also one of the new songs. And WHAT A SONG! Soilwork have created a 16 and 1/2 minute prog metal epic to prove they could. And wow, what took them so long?

Part of this has to be the proggyness of their side project The Night Flight Orchestra. Not to say that “A Whisp Of The Atlantic” sounds like that but it does make use of melody and just going way over the top. The previous singles are all top notch but the title track is makes this EP worth it by itself. It does make me wonder what Soilwork will do next.

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Sue’s List Of Some Enjoyed Albums of 2020

 

In no order at all…..the only qualifier for this list is that I own a physical copy or a download of the release.

 

Sólstafir – Endless Twilight Of Codependent Love
Jakko M Jakszyk – Secrets & Lies
Anna von Hausswolff – All Thoughts Fly
Porcupine Tree – Pure Narcotic
Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders
Michael Rother – Dreaming
Tim Bowness – Late Night Laments
Angel Olsen – Whole New Mess
Ambrose Akinmusire – On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment
Maria Schneider Orchestra – Data Lords
Tim Bowness / Peter Chilvers – Modern Ruins
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Kavus Torabi – Hip To The Jag
Blanck Mass – Animated Violence Mild
Colin Edwin – Infinite Regress
Katatonia – City Burials
Amon Tobin – Long Stories
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
A Formal Horse – Here Comes A Man From The Council With A Flamethrower
BT – The Lost Art of Longing
Thumbscrew – The Anthony Braxton Project
Suzanne Ciani – Music For Denali
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts VI: Locusts
Nick Beggs – Music For Drones
Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel – Halocline
Alessandro Cortini – Spettri
Cloudland Blue Quartet – Cage
Squarepusher – Be Up A Hello

And of course there’s things I haven’t listened to yet.

Explore and enjoy. Take care out there.

Posted in art rock, avant garde, progressive metal, progressive rock | Tagged | 1 Comment

Rob’s Top 20 Studio Albums of 2020

In case you missed my radio show, here is my countdown of my 20 favorite studio albums of 2020. No EPs, no live albums, no hits albums.

20. Ring Van Mobius – “The 3rd Majesty”

19. Lunatic Soul – “Through Shaded Woods (Deluxe Edition)”

18. Doves- “The Universal Want”

17. Zombi- “2020”

16. pg.lost- “Oscillate”

15. moe.- “This Is Not, We Are”

14. The Flaming Lips – “American Head”

13. Psychotic Waltz – “The God-Shaped Void”

12. Green Carnation – “Leaves of Yesteryear”

11. Communic- “Hiding from the World”

10. Biffy Clyro – “A Celebration Of Endings”

9. Kansas – “The Absence Of Presence”

8. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

7. Dool – “Summerland”

6. Elder – “Omens”

5. Motorpsycho – “The All is One”

4. Kadavar – “The Isolation Tapes”

3. Fates Warning – “Long Day Good Night”

2. Enslaved – “Utgard”

1. Pure Reason Revolution “Eupnea”

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Gryphon – “Get Out of My Father’s Car!”

Gryphon is back again, proving that their reunion for “Re-invention” was not a one off. “Get Out of My Father’s Car!” features original members Graeme Taylor, Brian Gulland and Dave Oberlé joined by Andy Findon from the last album plus two new members. The sound of the new album is very much in line with what one would expect from Gryphon. Medieval sounds mixed with prog savvy.

“Get Out of My Father’s Car!” is not going to make me forget about “Red Queen to Gryphon Three.” That album is a masterpiece which overshadows the rest of their great catalogue. Nor does this album have the smarts of “Treason.” It does sound somewhat akin to “Re-invention” which is okay too. The title track is a tad whimsical for my taste and the title itself is rather silly.

It’s songs like “A Bit of Music By Me”that remind me of classic Gryphon. Where’s the bassoon? Thankfully the instrument that makes Gryphon different than most bands is very much a part of the sound,”Suite For ’68” is an example.

“Percy The Defective Perspective Detective” is actually better than its title with flute and harpsichord leading the way. I would prefer the album was instrumental because the flat vocals on the otherwise pleasant “Christina’s Song” are…unfortunate. “The Brief History of a Bassoon” is another reason for the band to forego vocals. It’s silly and fun but a song that I skip. Less vocals, more bassoon.

“Forth Sahara” is another highlight. Great instrumental interplay between flute, violin and bassoon. While “Krum Dancing” sounds like a Jethro Tull knock off and Gryphon are better than that. The singing returns for the weak “A Stranger Kiss.” I’d expect this one on a Renaissance album. That’s cool if you are into that. Just does nothing for me. The last two tracks veer from good instrumental to average vocal track.

Unfortunately, “Get Out of My Father’s Car!” is a disappointment overall. There are some excellent tracks here and there but unfortunately there are some real snoozers and awkward moment that ruin things. Die hard fans will probably enjoy this but “Get Out of My Father’s Car!” is not going to bring in new fans. It sounds very slap dash as a whole and Gryphon’s legacy deserves better.

Rating: 6/10

Website: http://thegryphonpages.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newgryphon/

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The Flower Kings – “Islands”

It hasn’t even been a year since the last album by the Flower Kings. “Waiting for Miracles” came out November 8th, 2019. But with the world basically shut down due to the pandemic, Roine Stolt and company went right back into the studio to record “Islands.” The first thing you will notice about the new album is the artwork which was designed by the legendary Roger Dean. It’s about time he did a cover for TFK!

Unlike most Flower Kings albums, “Islands” doesn’t have any huge epics. And considering this is double album, it’s even more surprising. Still the album is 92 minutes long and has a ton of great music, it’s just done in a more…digestible manner. There’s a theme of isolation running through the album, though it’s not a “concept album.” Considering we are all dealing with more isolation with COVID-19, we are each our own little island. So the songs are linked, though not a true long song with many little parts like “Garden of Dreams” was on “Flower Power.”

Musically, it sounds like…well, The Flower Kings. The vintage prog sound is very much intact. There are a lot of strong melodies through out “Islands.” The songs range from mellower moments like “Morning News” to more overt prog like Yes-like opener “Racing With Blinders On.” Right off the bat, that song let me know this was going to be a fun album. “From The Ground” is a bit of prog pop as only Roine Stolt can write. Great tune. But there are a lot of great songs.

The first disc has some fine songs like “Black Swan” which has a swing to it that the band are great at, or the insane instrumental “Journeyman” which is just under two minutes and perfect. There’s also the 9 1/2 minute mini epic “Solaris” and the majestic “Heart Of The Valley,” which is another favorite of mine. “Man In A Two Peace Suit” showcases Stolt amazing guitar talent. And if the album was one disc, it still would be amazing.

But wait! There’s more!

“All I Need Is Love” kicks off the second disc and once again Hasse Fröberg adds his great voice to a great song. Plus another thing we all need is positivity and here’s a song with just that. “A New Species” is shows the jazzier side of the band that really first came into play back on “Unfold the Future.” You get more of that on “Hidden Angles” which is just under a minute but it is anything but filler! “Serpentine” keeps the coolness flowing (very much classic TFK). And that’s another thing I need to mention. The track order is really perfect. The songs flow so well together style wise.

It’s funny that the second disc has just as many amazing songs on it. The mellotron soaked “Telescope,” the bouncy “Between Hope & Fear” with a great use of strings and the title track which closes out the album, a song that would make Steve Hackett proud. A great guitar track to close out a GREAT album!

“Islands” is easily one of the best albums that The Flower Kings have ever done. Rather than worry about how long the songs are, it is all about how GOOD the songs are. For those who have never quite gotten into this band, this album could very well be the one you’ve been waiting for. For fans of The Flower Kings, this is another great album to get lost in. You’re own island.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

CD 1 (49:40)
1 – Racing With Blinders On 4:24
2 – From The Ground 4.02
3 – Black Swan 5:53
4 – Morning News 4:01
5 – Broken 6:38
6 – Goodbye Outrage 2:19
7 – Journeyman 1:43
8 – Tangerine 3:51
9 – Solaris 9:10
10 – Heart Of The Valley 4:18
11- Man In A Two Peace Suit 3:21


CD 2 (43:01)
1 – All I Need Is Love 5:48
2 – A New Species 5:45
3 – Northern Lights 5:43
4 – Hidden Angles 0:50
5 – Serpentine 3:52
6 – Looking For Answers 4:30
7 –Telescope 4:41
8 – Fool’s Gold 3:11
9 – Between Hope & Fear 4:29
10 – Islands 4:12

Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: 30 October 2020

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Fates Warning – “Long Day Good Night”

Fates Warning is one of my favorite bands, so this review has a bit of a bias. That said, my expectation for any new album by them is very high – especially on the heels of their last album, “Theories of Flight,” which was a masterpiece. “Long Day Good Night” is a lot of music – 13 songs that clock in at 72:22! – and Fates covers a lot of ground in the process.

“Long Day Good Night” is an album that shows every side of the band. It takes a piece from every direction that the band has explored with singer Ray Alder. The album has the directness and radio-ready sounds of “Parallels,” and it has the epic prog nature of “A Pleasant Shade of Gray,” PLUS the atmosphere of “Disconnected.” Sometimes it happens within one song, but more often, each song gives a nod to each period.

The album starts with the expansive “The Destination Onward,” which starts slowly and has a definite “Disconnected” feel to it before the band launch their attack halfway through. The song is an amazing opener, but Fates are great at that. “Shuttered World” is one of the heavier Fates tracks the band has ever done – great riffs from Jim Matheos, as always. The chorus is hook-laden and would sound at home on “Parallels.” This should be a single.

“Alone We Walk” is a mix of the first two songs: atmosphere and aggression. Another killer song. “Now Comes the Rain” has an opening riff that once again harkens back to the radio-friendly side of the band. This was the second single the band released, so most fans have heard it and know it. It’s at this point of the album that I realized just how great this thing is sounding. “The Way Home” would have fit well with “Theories of Flight,” with its gorgeous opening section…and then there’s the insane prog middle section where Bobby Jarzombek shows why he is one of the most underrated drummers on the planet. Wow!

“Under the Sun” is notable for its use of strings, which is something that Fates Warning has never done. And wow, does it add to this song! The other thing is the main guitar melody, which reminds me of another melody line but I can’t for the life of me think of what it is! I know I’ve heard something VERY close to it. It’s still a great melody. “Scars” was the first single, so most folks know it. Great tune that starts the second half of the album well. “When Snow Falls” is a song that sounds more like “Disconnected” or even OSI. After all, Gavin Harrison guests on drums on it and there’s a fair amount of Kevin Moore inspired keys and electronics on it.

One would assume that a 13-track album would mean no epics, but there are a few mini-epics on Long Day Good Night: “The Way Home,” plus the 11 1/2 minute track “The Longest Shadow of the Day” which showcases the whole band, including a killer bass solo by Joey Vera. The song has various styles: jazz, thrash, prog. It’s a true epic.

The album closes with a quiet acoustic number, “The Last Song.” Hopefully it’s just meant as the last song on the album and not the last song for the band. It has yet another incredible vocal by the amazing Ray Alder, who seems to get better with age. It is yet another side of Fates Warning that “Long Day Good Night” showcases.

This is easily the most diverse album the band has done, and one of the best. “Long Day Good Night” is another masterpiece from a band that has released quite a few of them. It’s also a great place to start if you’ve never checked out Fates Warning. It allows the listener to go back and explore the various paths this legendary band has gone down.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:

1. The Destination Onward
2. Shuttered World
3. Alone We Walk
4. Now Comes the Rain
5. The Way Home
6. Under the Sun
7. Scars
8. Begin Again
9. When Snow Falls
10. Liar
11. Glass Houses
12. The Longest Shadow of the Day
13. The Last Song

Bandcamp: fateswarning.bandcamp.com/album/long-day-good-night

Label: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 6 November 2020

 

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Wobbler – “Dwellers of the Deep”

Wobbler are one of those bands that I think all fans of prog rock should be aware of and hopefully checked out. If you haven’t, the good thing about Wobbler is that they have had a sound that has remained consistent and music that has always had the highest of standards. They do wear their influences proudly. But not to the point of ripping anyone off.

Wobbler mixes vintage Yes with some ELP and Pink Floyd thrown in. Yes is definitely the most prominent touchstone with the vocals and bass sounding like the late Chris Squire is actually in the band. On their lastest opus “Dwellers of the Deep,” all of this remains. The band have also shown additional growth since revamping themselves on their last album “From Silence to Somewhere.” These two albums definitely sound connected and that works for me just fine.

The album opens with “By the Banks” which is the standard almost 14 minute Wobbler ditty. Right from the start, Wobbler comes roaring out of the gate. Bass, drums, organ and then the vocals: it’s classic Wobbler. So if you are new to the band, this is how they sound. Yes they are from a time gone by but so am I. And if you love mellotron, there is ample supply on much of their music including “By the Banks.”

The band were always good with melodies and really they seem to have gotten better with each album. There are a lot of things happening in their music but they never lose the listener and THAT is what makes great prog versus the bands that try to be prog. “By the Banks” could be on any early Yes album and fit…but it sounds modern at the same time. 

The next track is the song released as the first single/video “Five Rooms.” About a minute in, the band really takes off. Much like the first song, Wobbler show they can rock. Then they downshift to show their dynamics. The organ solo around 5 1/2 minutes in really jams. “Naiad Dreams” is the “short” song on “Dwellers of the Deep.” It’s a 4 1/2 minute acoustic that reminds me of Gentle Giant, Yes and for some reason Greenslade. Since the latter had no main guitarist, I could be off. It has a medieval vibe to it and is more subtle than Wobbler tend to be. But they do that sometimes.

Much like “From Silence to Somewhere,” “Dwellers of the Deep” has 4 songs. The big epic on this album is the 19 minute closer “Merry Macabre.” Wobbler fit with other current old school prog bands like The Flower Kings or The Tangent and that’s where a track like “Merry Macabre” falls in. Granted I prefer the vocals of Wobbler to the other bands (though I do love those bands too). The song does go into various sections including a short jam right before the 7 minute mark that will definitely have you thinking Squire lives on (the bass is ridiculous). Overall, this is one of Wobbler’s best epics.

“Dwellers of the Deep” is yet another great album by one of prog rock’s true champions. Wobbler don’t PLAY prog rock, they ARE prog rock. If you’ve never listened to them, “Dwellers of the Deep” is a great starting point. If you’ve been a fan of them, you will not be disappointed.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:

  1. By the Banks
  2. Five Rooms
  3. Naiad Dreams
  4. Merry Macabre

Label: Karisma Records
Release Date: 23 October 2020

 

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Chaos Divine – “Legacies”

I’ve been patiently awaiting Chaos Divine’s follow-up to the 2015 masterpiece Colliding Skies.  Feeling like a lifetime since then, I was eager to hear what the last half-decade has done to this melodic Australian metal band.

The syncopated hat-tip to Leprous, surgical insertion and rhythmic shift of the chorus, and inclusion of guttural vocals on set opener “Instincts” says to me Chaos Divine is swinging for home runs and/or attempting to level up.  “No Saviour” is thrash metal with melodic choruses.  “Unspoken” is the bridge between 2015’s Colliding Skies and 2020’s Legacies.

All the hallmarks of contemporary metal are present!  The production on Legacies is nothing short of top shelf.  My experience with this release versus Colliding Skies is that Legacies has taken longer for me to “get into.”  I suppose Colliding Skies was a torrid affair and for Legacies we must do the work?

The pacing up to track four “Only Son” is excellently decided and the guitar solos here are fantastic – these descriptions lack luster but the intention behind the composition of this CD is an art in itself.

“Colours of War” is five-star Chaos Divine – thrashy and melodic with alternating vocal styles and tempos.  Singer David Anderton is as powerful as ever.  After mid-tempo “Beacon” we’re shifted back into thrash gear with “False Flags” which should be an intense live experience.

Kicking off the final 3rd of Legacies, “Dead Rivers Flow” is a dense, emotional mid-tempo track which leads into metalcore-influenced “Behind the Seal.”  Syncopation is key to “The Key” – I’d love the band to get deeper into the prog-metal weeds.  There is no pointless noodling here, rest assured.  Palate-cleanser instrumental “Legacies” leads into grand finale “Into The Now.”  Drummer Tim Stelter, joining the band since Colliding Skies, passes the exam without a problem.  I’d be a fan of even more Ryan Felton guitar solos.

I’ve just listened to a few tracks from Colliding Skies to compare to Legacies.  The production/mix is now much more detailed and forward but avoids being “volume-wars offensive” – congratulations on that!  Bottom line: if you are a fan of Chaos Divine this should be an auto-purchase.  If you’ve never heard Chaos Divine but are aware of the whole Australian Prog Metal “thing” (including Karnivool, Caligula’s Horse, Dead Letter Circus, Circles) let this be your introduction!

Rating: 7.5/10

Tracklist:

  1. Instincts        4:04
  2. No Savior (Rise Fall)    4:19
  3. Unspoken        4:58
  4. Only Son        3:40
  5. Guarding Gravity    5:09
  6. Colours of War        4:36
  7. Beacon            5:29
  8. False Flags        5:42
  9. Dead Rivers Flow    5:04
  10. Behind The Seal        4:56
  11. The Key            4:39
  12. Legacies        1:47
  13. Into The Now        8:01

Release Date: 16 October 2020
Website: www.chaosdivine.net
Facebook: www.facebook.com/chaosdivine

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