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Live acoustic album from the duo of Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius, Cain's Offering) and Jani Liimatainen (Sonata Arctica, Cain's Offering).  The disc consists of them performing cover tunes as well as a couple of tracks taken from Kotipelto's solo work.

$11.00
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Seems like reunions are about to become the rage in Italy. First Arti & Mestieri and now Goblin. This is the soundtrack to the latest Dario Argento film Nonhosonno.

$15.00
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Not typical Laser's Edge fare but its the friggin' Beatles - COME ON!!! We got a great deal on this edition but these are sold with a warning. They are cut outs...and in this case I mean CUT OUT. Its a pretty savage deep cut that goes through the box/booklet but doesn't affect the CDs.

$20.00
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"Largely known for their fantastic album “As I turned as I had turned as a boy” from 1971, a true folk-rock delight, British group Dulcimer had also recorded a second album to make it released that same year, but for some reason it went unreleased.



$24.00

Where to begin? Remastered and expanded edition of one of the greatest guitar albums of all time. The former Procol Harum guitarist put all the pieces into place on this one. Just pure divine wah-wah heaven - "Day of The Eagle", "Bridge Of Sighs", "Too Rolling Stoned" - the list goes on.

$12.00
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"Sündenfall II from the Kevelaer area at the Lower Rhine played a mixture of folk and jazz, influenced by Jethro Tull.

$36.00

One Of A Kind

$8.00
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The guitar legend returns with a decidedly more subdued effort. Having said that his trademark smoldering, emotional guitar work is displayed in spades. He still plays with that intense fire and yeah the speed is still there. Wait until you hear "The Turning" - he rips it up.

$15.00
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In the UK there is a growing movement of bands that are revisiting 70s progressive and classic rock. Diagonal and Litmus would be examples although compared to Wolf People they explore the more progressive side of the spectrum.

$15.00
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Second solo album that Peter Bardens recorded for Transatlantic in 1971. Bardens emphasized his blues rock roots on this one. Probably for completists only but still given the royal treatment from Esoteric.

$9.00
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  • " "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
  • Latest studio album from this outstanding band from Sweden.  The best thing about Beardfish is their ability to be contemporary but they blend in just enough old school sounds to appeal to the entrenched prog fan base.  The band never quite sounds retro yet they incorporate vintage keys and guitar sounds. Chalk this up to great songwriting. On their previous album, The Void, something went amiss and it didn't sit well with their fans.  The band had taken on a heavier edge touching on metal.  Well have no fear - the band has jettisoned all metal trappings and have returned to the sound of the earlier albums.  Swirls of organ and Mellotron are everywhere and the unmistakeable sound of the Rickenbacker bass will slam you in the gut.  Are you are fan of Anekdoten, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, or even The Flower Kings?  You need to hear this.With regards to the bizarre album title here is a clue from the band:“The comfort zone is the invisible protective suit of negative thinking, almost like an entity of itself. It’s been with you since birth: your parents and your teachers and your friends and your neighbours all teaching you the way the world works – this is how it is and will be and there’s nothing you can do about it. The negative vibe is like a voice living inside of you, a companion through life. With time you start to like that voice and the place it takes you to: your comfort zone. I’m so sick and tired of it and I want to address it and maybe in that way start to work my way out of it”+4626 Comfortzone comes with a bonus CD featuring 13 previously unreleased demo and outtake tracks spanning 2002-2008.BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • "While Headspace probably known to most prog fans, All That You Fear Is Gone, their second album, is my first experience with the band. Headspace features some notable musicians from the UK prog world including vocalist Damian Wilson (Threshold, keyboard player Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Lee Pomeroy (It Bites, Steve Hackett), and guitarist Pete Rinaldi with new drummer Adam Falkner.All That You Fear Is Gone is a second part of trilogy with concept created by Wilson. Their first album I Am Anonymous had to do with the individual fitting into the world and it's various groups. This album deal with the individual sparring with and releasing himself for the hold of those same groups and institutions. Breaking free suggests also breaking free from your fears that they may have put upon you, and so the album title. Heady stuff from Headspace.My initial interest in Headspace comes from seeing vocalist Damian Wilson's name in the credits. I love his voice and vocal style. His work in Threshold is quite pleasing. He has this smooth melodic elegeance to his voice, but yet still conveys passion.As for the music within, there's definitely some creativity and variety, yet with echoes of classic prog from Yes to Genesis to Threshold to Hackett. Some things are heavier, like Kill You With Kindness which is thick with riffs, bass and drums, but still has a segue distilled to voice and acoustic guitar in the center. Conversely, The Element dials back most everything to minimalism: voice, light guitar, atmospheric synths. Similar is the short The Death Bell, where piano comes to the forefront with Wilson's voice. The title cut follows a similar motif, quiet, yet with even brighter piano aids Wilson's impassioned vocals.Alternatively, severals songs, like Secular Souls and The Science Within Us, the two longest songs here, work the juxtaposition of lightness and heaviness with more complexity, having moments and movements feature different elements. For example, within Secular Souls, before the midpoint the piano gets some attention. But after this, a strong bottom end takes over and the sound gets heavier, darker.Perhaps the most interesting song here is Polluted Alcohol. According to Wilson, it was a song that started one way, then came out differently. Mostly, this song is voice and guitar, and what's either a Dobro or steel guitar. At his this kind of Southern front porch blues feeling to it. One thing you will be convinced of upon listening to All That You Fear Is Gone is that this is definitely interesting progressive rock created by some very talented musicians. Recommended." - Danger Dog
    $12.00
  • Intense music from this Sacramento based quartet that first began in 2007 as the brainchild of Sacramento guitarist Josh Burke, with the goal of writing music that would be atmospheric, melodic and progressive, with heavy, dark guitars and drums and an overall epic, emotional arc.A Fair Dream Gone Mad is melancholic metal cut from a similar cloth to Katatonia and Opeth.  Josh Burke sings in a clean and expressive style in contrast to the crushing guitar riffs that take ITS’s music much further into the metal realms than bands they are compared to like Porcupine Tree and Riverside but at the same time guitar takes center stage adding a nice proggy vibe.  A mesmerizing and emotional debut filled with tension.This is a new freshened up edition on Sensory Records.  It arrives in a digipak and has a booklet with lyrics. 
    $13.00
  • Sound Of Contact is a new band put together by Simon Collins and session keyboardist Dave Kerzner.  Yeah - Simon is Phil's son.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree - Simon plays drums and he also sings.  His voice is eerily like his dad.  At times virtually indistinguishable.  The music follows a similar path to Phil's work with Genesis and solo.  Parts of the album are pure prog - in fact the album closes with a killer 19 minute epic called "Mobius Slip".  Other parts of the album exhibit a poppier more commercial side.  I don't think of the album as a pop album - its a prog rock album.  Kerzner provides some very interesting keyboard work - lots of intricacies through out the album.  There is that commercial element that reminds me of Genesis in the 80s.  With his voice sounding so much like his father, Simon will always be cursed with being compared to Phil.  That's a fact.  Overall I think he's come up with an interesting album that fans of more contemporary progressive rock will enjoy.
    $12.00
  • One of the great overlooked prog metal albums of the 90s made available again. This album with the odd name was only released in Japan by Toshiba-EMI in 1998. It was the debut album from this Swiss trio and featured the great Thomas Vikstrom on vocals. The music was keyboard driven, a bit off kilter and totally amazing. The band didn't release anything again until this year's Retrospective but the similarities are superficial. Retrospective is a great album but a bit more conventional. Cosmic Handball has a lot more personality. Its been remixed and remastered which can only help as the original production was a bit murky sounding. Highest recommendation.
    $5.00
  • IQ made the curious but welcome decision to make a special edition of The Road Of Bones containing 40 minutes of extra material on a second CD.  None of this material is available elsewhere.  Not remixes or throw away tracks - just 40 more minutes of prime IQ!IQ's 10th studio arrives and again with a slightly reconfigured lineup.  The exceptionally gifted Neil Durant, previously with Sphere3, is now handling keyboards.  Nothing dramatic changed.  If anything keyboards might even be a bit more prominent.  Paul Cook and Tim Esau, the original rhythm section, are now in tow. Peter Nicholls is his sombre self.  Guitars seem to be slightly heavier but all in all this sounds like prime IQ.  This is a band that has weathered personnel changes over the year but like a fine wine they've improved with age.  This is a BUY OR DIE release.  Top 10 for 2014. 
    $18.00
  • With almost forty minutes of new material, AGUSA delivers a wide array of seamlessly-executed, organic rock on the aptly titled Agusa 2. The band’s tranquil output blends tripped-out psychedelic and progressive rock structures are inspired by more folk than occult influences, instilling visions of nature, the cosmos, and dreamlike passages, meandering into realms of a possibly supernatural or parallel existence. While not a fully instrumental recording, backing vocal mantras only seep in through purposeful cracks in the construction of these immense movements, adding an even more spacious feeling to the overall flow of the album.AGUSA was formed in the springtime of 2013, when Tobias Petterson and Mikael Ödesjö, former members of Kama Loka, recruited Dag Strömqvist and Jonas Berge for their early ‘70s progressive rock project. In the Summer, the outfit ventured out to the countryside where Dag lived, to a place called Agusa — virtually only a loose gathering of homes deep in the forest. Within these secluded surroundings, and the most amazingly sunny, warm Summer day, the new collective had an extensive, extremely inspired jam session which somewhat solidified the direction of their sound, so of course, the name AGUSA was simply perfect for the outfit.In the Autumn of 2014, the band went into the studio to record their first album, Högtid, which was released on vinyl and digital media in early 2014. After a handful of gigs during the Winter, Dag decided to leave AGUSA to travel around India, and following a number of auditions, Tim Wallander, also a member of blues trio Magic Jove, joined the band. In the beginning of 2015, the refreshed lineup went into Studio Möllan once again to record their sophomore full-length, this time having asked a close friend of theirs, Jenny Puertas, to play flute on the recording. The match was so perfect that the band instantly invited her into the band on a full-time basis, expanding their lineup once again. They began performing with this new arrangement weeks later, and have not looked back.CD mastering is courtesy of Bob Katz, done to his usual audiophile standards.
    $13.00
  • 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
  • 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
  • Fourth album from this outstanding metal band from Tunisia.  Myrath follow the template of old Symphony X but they infuse it with Middle Eastern modalities.  The band has sick chops and a phenomenal vocalist that has dialed himself in perfectly.  There is nothing else out there like Myrath and this one may well be their best one yet.If you were fortunate enough to see the band perform at ProgPower USA you know how incendiary this band can be - they blew the roof off the joint and were the talk of the festival.  BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • “Known/Learned’ is the third album from this thought provoking progressive band from Brisbane, Australia.  It’s a sprawling 2CD collection of themes and moments, captured between recurring characters. While never explicitly told in the traditional vein of the ‘concept album’, the imagery of Known/Learned depicts fragmented moments in the lives of a father and his daughter, their loss, their love, their journey. A bittersweet love song for life.Occupying a unique place in the Australian progressive music scene, Arcane’s transcendental live performances and 2009’s critically acclaimed, dark and enigmatic concept album 'Chronicles Of The Waking Dream' have earned them a inimitable reputation as one of Australia’s premier progressive rock bands.Sharing stages with artists as diverse as Anathema (UK), Soilwork (Swe), Queensryche (USA), Dead Letter Circus, Ne Obliviscaris and hundreds more, Arcane's live show, often accompanied by a backdrop of staggering visualizations, is a vast sensory experience.Arcane's immersive sound, and the vocals of Jim Grey quickly found favor throughout Australia, headlining the annual Progfest tour, providing touring support for Ne Obliviscaris, and performing to capacity crowds at Sonic Forge Festival in Melbourne. A crowd funding campaign in July, 2013 heralded the 2015 release of 'Known/Learned' a 16 track conceptual double album. Arcane blends the technicality of progressive metal with the atmospheric intensity of bands like Tool, Riverside and Anathema.  The world is about to discover what their Australian fan base already knows – that Arcane is a rising star in the world of progressive music.
    $14.00
  • "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
  • ""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