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  • "Approaching a review for a new Frost* album is incredibly daunting.  These are the guys that released what I consider a modern prog classic in “Milliontown”, an album that may possibly have changed progressive music for the new generation.  This is the band that we have been waiting to hear from for so long now: It’s been eight years since their last album!  This is the band that became a progressive giant in just one album.  So, what can be said about their new album “Falling Satellites”?Let’s get one thing out of the way: This album should not be compared with “Milliontown”, or even “Experiments in Mass Appeal”.  All three albums are very different in approach, though “Falling Satellites” does seem to fall somewhere between the other two.  This new album will also never be lauded as much as the debut, and that’s perfectly fine.  “Falling Satellites”, a quite different album, stands on its own with a deliberate attempt to reinvent prog once again.The old line-up is halfway back, as Jem Godfrey (keys, vocals) and John Mitchell (guitars, vocals) are back and honestly sound better than ever.  Newcomers Nathan King (bass) and Craig Blundell (drums) complete the band this time, forming what might be the best line-up of the three albums.  Honestly, these guys have been working together since 2010, so the line-up isn’t exactly new.Let’s talk about the album before we go into the performances.  “Falling Satellites” is Frost*’s most pop-influenced album, without a doubt.  Tackling the heavy concept of the astounding impossibility of our existence and the resulting lessons that should be learned, the album addresses life with upbeat music that get progressively more serene with each track.  So, if you are looking for some sort of retro prog or maybe a heavier sound, they went in exactly the opposite direction.  Unswayed by the modern trends in progressive rock, Frost* have released an album that celebrates the missing progressive pop subgenre with sounds ranging from subtle to sweeping to dubstep.  Yes, dubstep (more on that in a bit).  This is an album that might shock the prog snob in all of us, as it presents us with razor sharp vocal hooks, upbeat melodies, and some songs that might not be progressive at all.  Yet, it also offers incredibly technical grooves, layers and layers of gorgeous sounds, progressive structures, and, of course, some of the best soloing you will ever hear on any album.The album has a little bit for everyone.  Bookended by an ethereal intro and outro, the album truly begins with “Numbers”, a song that could have been on “Experiments”, which means it’s fast-paced and catchy as hell.  Other similar songs are “Lights Out” (a pop song through and through), and the incredible track “Heartstrings”.  Other songs lean towards “Milliontown”, such as the big build of “Signs”, the subtle “Closer to the Sun”, or the complex labyrinth of “Nice Day for It”.  The album seems a bit all over the place at first, but comes together when you realize that the last six songs on the album are a suite called “Sunlight”.  In fact, you’ll hear the basic melodies of “Heartstrings” reoccur in “Nice Day for It”.  Once you understand the structure of the album, it really starts to makes sense, especially as the last half of the album surges and then hits a cooldown for the last two tracks.Perhaps my favorite track on the album, however, is “Towerblock”.  I like it so much that I want to devote a paragraph to it.  This track has achieved what bands likes Muse could not do: They have incorporated dubstep into a progressive album seamlessly.  “Towerblock” is a song of explosive vocals, winding instrumentals, and a dubstep section that feels right at home.  I especially love the way Jem’s keyboards break forward from the last dubstep beat.  “Falling Satellites” is full of sublime moments like that.I guess it’s time to talk about the performances now.  Jem and John are obviously the focus here.  Jem’s keys are inimitable, winding and streaming with a consciousness of their own.  Every time his keys sweep in, my heart races just a little more quickly, and his mastery of new instruments like The Chapman Railboard (played horizontally) is all the more impressive.  John, too, is at the top of his game.  After Lonely Robot’s offering last year, I was more excited to hear him play again, and he does not disappoint.  His guitar solos strike that emotionally perfect first note that few guitarists can achieve.  Nathan and Craig, however, may be the unsung heroes of the album.  Nathan’s bass is exceedingly important here, establishing the grooves around which the keys and guitars orbit.  Craig, a proven talent on the drums, lays down deceptively simple beats that you will find yourself trying to follow, but then you’ll realize that they are way more complicated than you thought.That kind of subtle complexity is a huge part of “Falling Satellites”.  Some will hear this album and proclaim it as a pop.  They’d be wrong, of course.  Yes, there is pop influence here that is undeniable (and I love it), but there is also an underlying technicality here that will blow your mind if you give it a chance, especially the second half.  In many ways, Frost* has once again redefined what we understand to be progressive music, and they’ve done it with gusto and pomp and a smile on their faces." - The Prog Mind
    $13.00
  • Second release from this German band and frankly its a huge improvement from their debut. Dante skirt the fine line between neoprogressive rock and progressive metal. The music is quite melodic and there is some heaviness in the guitarwork...and yeah the keyboardist likes to shred like Jordan does...so maybe they can slip into the metal category. File these guys along side Ricochet.
    $3.00
  • THE 4 DISC 40 PAGE HARDBOUND EDITION INCLUDES A CD WITH BONUS TRACKS, 5.1 SURROUND (24/96 DTS) AND HI-RES STEREO 24/96 LPCM) MIXES ON BOTH DVD AND DTS LOSSLESS BLU-RAY. "Nothing is more consistent in the world than change. In the realm of music, change either comes with the speed of an arthritic glacier, or so fast the music community is left breathless trying to keep up; there rarely seems to be any middle ground. As far as bands and their evolution go, they fall into two categories: bands who virtually never change their sound, and bands that do so frequently. Fans as a general rule seem hostile to bands changing their sound, “selling out” being the most common accusation. A key factor of successful change is that a band has to be able to do it well, and their new sound must stand up against other albums with such a sound.With that in mind, few bands have been so consistent, not only in changing but changing well as Liverpool’s Anathema. They started out as a slow and heavy doom metal band, and they were very good at it. Over time they left that far behind – indeed it is now all but a distant memory, with many newer fans being hardly familiar with those early albums. They evolved, adding alternative and progressive rock touches, but always sounding like themselves: dark, melancholy, and deeply emotional. They hit the peak of their progressive sound with 2012’s highly acclaimed ‘Weather Systems’ and followed it up with the stylistically similar ‘Distant Satellites’ in 2014, which I felt was rather underwhelming and derivative of the previous. Anathema, however, have changed themselves again with the upcoming ‘The Optimist.’  While retaining hints of their progressive flavor, it is heavily electronic in nature – one could say moody, dark electric pop. And, unsurprisingly, given their track record, they have delivered another excellent and engaging album.The genesis of the new album lies in their 2001 album ‘A Fine Day To Exit,’ an album which tells the story of a man and his attempt to escape from his life, its problems, and possibly start anew. The story was unresolved, and his fate unknown, and so the narrative of this new album is meant to answer the question of his fate. The album starts with the brief “32.63n 117.14w” which are the coordinates of Silver Strand beach in San Diego, the character’s last known location and the beach where the cover for ‘Fine Day’ was taken.  The album begins with the sound of crashing waves and a man walking through sand panting for breath before entering his car and flipping through radio stations until a steady electronic beat begins. It flows directly into “Leaving it Behind” where the first guitar picking of Vincent and Daniel Cavanagh begins and the album launches into one of the few true rockers of the album. The track is classic Anathema of recent years; Daniel’s rich voice soars over strongly melodic yet driving prog-tinged rock driven by the crisp drumming and percussion work of Daniel Cardoso and John Douglas. This song will make a perfect opening number for upcoming shows and will leave any fan of the band pleased and looking forward to more.The album continues with the string and electronic dominant “Endless Waves” which is sung by the band’s other lead singer, the lovely, crystal-voiced Lee Douglas, who officially joined the band in 2010. It has become common over the last few albums for Daniel and Lee to trade off the lead vocal duties on the first and second tracks and then mix it up through the rest of the album, and ‘The Optimist’ follows that pattern. The tracks continue the character’s journey quite literally with the instrumental “San Francisco” and then “Springfield,” which continues his quest to either disappear completely, or find himself and come to grips with his life. The piano and electronic aspects are especially highlighted through here, and the keyboard work of the two brothers is never flashy but just enough to capture the emotion. The rise and fall of the music and is handled with finesse quite beautifully.As with much of their previous work, the atmosphere of the album is as important as the individual songs. With the addition of so much electronic key work, the result is an almost urban feeling that hovers over the whole album. In that way, it is not dissimilar to Ulver’s excellent ‘Perdition City’ with its overall feeling of isolation in the midst of millions of people. And by often commenting on the electronic feel of the album, I do not mean to imply that it is an electronic album in the way that the previously mentioned Ulver album is. There are plenty of guitars and rock moments along the way, only the electronics hover over the album in a way they have not done on earlier albums. This mix of old and new blends in a manner which makes it familiar while still being unexpected, fresh, and unmistakably, Anathema.The band does go into a very different direction from anything they have done on the Douglas sung “Close Your Eyes,” which can accurately be called a lounge jazz number. Mostly piano driven with moody horn work and light jazzy drumming, one can imagine the character sitting in a dim, smoky jazz club sipping a drink while Lee is on stage singing to a small crowd. It was an unexpected twist, but works very well. Daniel picks up the vocal duties again on the much more familiar sounding and sparsely sung “Wildfires.” It finds the character questioning who he is before a climactic building of pounding drums and crunchy guitars largely overwhelm the floating vocals which end with the repeating line, “it’s too late” before quieting back down and moving into the final song “Back to the Start.”Fittingly with such a title, the album closes as it began with the sound of crashing and classic-sounding Anathema. The lyrics sum much of the theme of the album (if not their whole career) up as Vincent sings, “They don’t understand ‘cos they don’t talk for me/There ain’t no master plan/ I came in to make peace/ the more we’re made to suffer the more we’re made to care”. The song builds powerfully with both vocalists sharing duties and perhaps being the two characters of the drama which comes back to the start. The band deliberately leaves the fate up to the listener, whether he returns to his old life or escapes and leaves to a new one. Which ending you prefer is likely up to your personality; the romantic (in the classic sense) in me would like to believe he returned and resolved things, but the opposite is just as probable and satisfying in its own way. Regardless, it is a perfect closing to the album.With ‘The Optimist’, Anathema have crafted an entirely new, yet familiar-sounding album that requires the listener to not only give it multiple spins to come to grips with it, but richly rewards them for doing so. As a sequel to ‘A Fine Day to Exit,’ it succeeds in bringing closure to the story, and the decision to leave the conclusion up to the listener is skillfully and intelligently done. While I wouldn’t recommend this as the first album for a new Anathema listener, anyone who has been following the band in recent years should be very pleased with it. Highly recommended." - Metal Wani
    $49.00
  • "Discovering new music is always a great feeling. Especially (at least to me) when you’re discovering a new band that not many people have heard yet. Back in early May my life took a change for the better when Voyager’s promoter Incendia Music sent me an email about this new band from New Haven, CA, called Earthside. I checked out the single, entitled “The Closest I’ve Come”, that was supplied with that email. I don’t think I have ever been more gobsmacked before ever. Within seconds my brain was literally strewn all across the floor. I don’t think I have recovered yet from that experience. You know when you hear a song that is so good that you’re wondering how you could have lived your life up until that point without having heard said song before? That’s how I was feeling.A Dream In Static is the title of Earthside’s debut album, and if I was blown away by the first single, it is nothing compared to what I’m feeling now. A second single, “Mob Mentality”, was released about a month ago, and it was then that I fully realised just how big this album would turn out to be. But let’s start with the basic stuff. The gentlemen in this band are Ben Shanbrom (drums), Frank Sacramone (keyboards), Jamie van Dyk (guitars) and Ryan Griffin (bass). I commend each and every one of these guys, the amount of musical brilliance on this album is through the roof. It’s like listening to a slightly more laid back version of Opeth.A Dream In Static kicks off with the first single. For many years I have struggled big time with instrumental tracks, and especially prog music in general. I have slowly gotten into the likes of Opeth and Dream Theater, but this is the song that finally won me over completely. The composition is one of total beauty, and the melody that kicks in at 1.30 is just too good for words. Mind-blowing, spine-tingling, mind-boggling, heck, whatever you want. Bring out your thesaurus, it still wouldn’t be enough. I could dedicate this entire review to the one track, but let’s move on!Next up is the second single, “Mob Mentality” features one of my favourite metal vocalists of all time, Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust. He is the first of a handful of guest vocalists featured on this release. Lajon’s voice fits this song perfectly, I don’t know many other vocalists that can conjure up so much raw emotion, and in combination with the talent of Earthside, backed by The Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra, this track is more like a roller-coaster ride than anything else. An intense sense of drama is seeping through every second of this 10 minute piece that also would serve as the perfect movie score. Metalsucks labeled the music video for Mob Mentality “the most impressive/insane music video of 2015”, make sure you check it out below!We move on into uncharted territories for the first time, where the title track greets us with an intro that I could swear was written by Mikael Åkerfeldt himself if I didn’t know better. Then, outta nowhere, TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins steps in and completely dominates. I must admit that I have never listened to TesseracT before, but just because of this track I am strongly considering going to their show in Sydney next week. His soaring vocals are soul-wrenching and addictive at the same time. I would love to say that this is my favourite track on the album, but it’s simply not possible to single one out. For the first time in what feels like forever, I have encountered an album that pretty much is a definite 10/10. “A Dream In Static” makes a break towards a more djenty and groovy sound. It is a nice change of pace, and it also definitely highlights that no songs are alike on this album.Speaking of djent, there are times when such a label would be justified on this album I suppose, but at the same time the influences are so widespread, and I don’t think I could count the amount of genres on two hands. This is why Earthside remind me so much of Opeth in a way, they extract parts from the obvious ones, such as prog and melodeath, but also soul and jazz, amplify them, and make a sound that they well can call their own. I have never come across another band that sound anything like Earthside before.Next up is “Entering The Light”. Here guest Max ZT is a vital part of the sound, playing a hammered dulcimer. The melody created by this widely forgotten instrument, in combination with the MSSO, is absolutely enchanting. “Skyline” is probably the most basic/straightforward (well, everything is relative I guess) track on the album. Starting out as a full band metal jam it is a track that would work great live I’m sure. As the song progresses a beautiful piano melody takes over, just to be eradicated by the overpowering metal once again. It feels like this track is a battle between despair and hope.We’re getting closer to the end. Fellow Swede Björn Strid (Soilwork) is handling the vocal duties on “Crater”. It is really quite interesting because Björn is given the opportunity to use his softer/more melodic vocals, as well as his harsher style, which is what made him famous. The blend of vocal styles are absolutely fantastic, and I am not sure if Strid has ever produced a vocal performance like this in the past.Now, if magic mushrooms took the shape of a song, this would be it. “The Ungrounding”’s absolutely crazy underlying Infected Mushroom-esque sound is one of the most unexpected things I have heard in a while. And, just like everything else on this album, it just works. For some bizarre reason a prog metal version of Infected Mushroom makes all the sense in the world.The last track on the album, “Contemplation of the Beautiful”, is also the longest one, clocking in at 11.49. It feels very much like a cinematic intro, with some sampled sounds setting the mood. The song suddenly erupts into chaos, and Eric Zirlinger’s (Face The King) screams are absolutely earth shattering. Words simply cannot describe how massive this song is. There are twists and turns, light and darkness, and a jaw-dropping crescendo that concludes this journey that I will never forget.I am just left with two questions:  how is this a debut album? And where did this band come from? With some luck in this difficult business, I am sure that they can become one of the genre’s giants in the future. Mind = Blown." - Metal Obsession
    $12.00
  • We have a special offer Tiles "Pretending2Run" t-shirt/2 CD bundle.  The shirt design is courtesy of the illustrious Hugh Syme.  The new Tiles album is a 2CD set in a digipak with a 28 page book.After an eight year absence, T I L E S returns with a vengeance by delivering the mesmerizing 2-CD magnum opus “Pretending to Run.”  Clocking in at over 96-minutes, “Pretending to Run” is an ambitious and richly crafted song cycle spinning the tale of a man blindsided and disillusioned by betrayal.Once again, T I L E S teamed up with producer Terry Brown – and with mastering by Grammy award winning engineer Peter Moore, “Pretending to Run” boasts a powerful and detailed sonic landscape.  Complementing the dramatic and multi-layered storyline is Hugh Syme’s striking and surreal imagery.  Featuring a lush 28-page full-color booklet, the design and packaging for “Pretending to Run” is an elaborate and stunning work of art.Lending their talents to “Pretending to Run” is an extraordinary collection of special guest musicians: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs), Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson Band), Mike Stern (Miles Davis), Kim Mitchell (Max Webster), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith), Max Portnoy (Next to None), Matthew Parmenter (Discipline), Mark Mikel (Pillbugs), Joe Deninzon, and other notable guests from the Detroit area… Destined to be on the radar of Prog fans everywhere, “Pretending to Run” is a distinctive  presentation framed in the grand traditions of progressive rock.  Clearly and unmistakably T I L E S, but infused with a more expansive sound as the guest artists propel the band into new directions sure to please fans old and new.Special guest performances by:Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs)Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson)Mike Stern (Miles Davis)Kim Mitchell (Max Webster)Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree)Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith)Max Portnoy (Next To None)Matthew Parmenter (Discipline)Mark Mikel (Pillbugs)Joe Deninzon (Stratospheerius)  
    $25.00
  • Thirty nine years after the release of their debut album, a reconstituted version of Alphataurus has formed to record their sophomore album...and they nailed it.  Guitar sounds are a bit on the modern side but the keys are the deal.  Soaring synth lines and organ solos dominate.  Five long intense tracks that sound like they fell out of the Wayback Machine.  Comes housed in a mini-lp sleeve with stunning wrap around artwork by Adriano Marangoni, the same artist that did that incredible triple gatefold back in the day.  Highly recommended to fans or Rock Progressivo Italiano.
    $18.00
  • Arjen Lucassen's long awaited Ayreon project is a total blast.  Like some of the earlier Ayreon albums, it owes as much to prog rock as it does metal.  All the old school heroes like Emerson, Wakeman, Wetton get to strut their stuff showing a young stud like Rudess a thing or two.  As always Lucassen latches on to some of the best vocalists around and this one is no exception.  Highly recommended.PLEASE NOTE THERE WILL BE A VERY EXPENSIVE IMPORT "ART BOOK" EDITION FORTHCOMING."You know what the metal world needs more of? Musicals. I'm not saying that ironically either. Sure, we have plenty of prog bands putting out concept albums, but cool as these records many be, the story themselves are not the focus of the album. Ayreon mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen has resurrected his grandest of all projects to continue showing these folks how to tell an epic story the right way.With 01011001 the Ayreon story came to an end, or so we thought. Arjen instead decided to focus on projects like Star One, Guilt Machine, and his solo album Lost in the New Real. When he revealed not too long ago that he was working on a new project, it wasn't a surprise to discover it was new Ayreon, but I was still plenty excited.Lucassen said of the newest record, "It's not science fiction, but a human story set in a science context." So no aliens or battling emotions or any of that. So, in an attempt to better understand the story, I contacting him for the lyrics and much to my surprise, he sent them to me saying, "Oh yes, you need the lyrics, definitely." Holy hell, was he right. The story is indeed more grounded than previous records, but there are still layers to this beast.Fans of Ayreon should know what to expect here. The Theory of Everything has seven guest singers and each singer plays a part in the story. They are JB (Grand Magus) as the Teacher, Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) as the Mother, Michael Mills (Toehider) as the Father, Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) as the Prodigy, Marco Hietala (Nightwish) as the Rival, John Wetton (Asia/ex-King Crimson) as the Psychiatrist, and Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards) as the Girl.Of these singers, the most impressive is the relatively unknown Sara Squadrani. She performs on a large portion of the story and shines every time, especially on "Love and Envy". I was also surprised to be so enamored with the performance of Christina Scabbia. She's always had  a wonderful voice, but her performance in this record might be her finest. Her harmonies with Squadrani stand out particularly on "Mirror of Dreams". This isn't to say only the performances by the female singers are worth mentioning. Tommy Karevik's introduction in "The Prodigy's World" is one of the strongest moments on the album.Press_Photo_01Every Ayreon album comes an eclectic group of guest musicians. This round primarily consisted of guest keyboardists. Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes) handles a good portion of the record, while Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) both make excellent solo appearances on "Progressive Waves".Having listened to all of Lucassen's albums at least once, I can say The Theory of Everything is the most musically diverse offering he's had a hand in, perhaps with the exception of his solo record. This isn't as heavy as previous Ayreon titles, but it has its driving moments like "Collision" and the Dream Theather-esque "Frequency Modulation." The aforementioned "Love and Envy" is a slower introspective song, while "Diagnosis" is massive and a little cheesy, but so awesome. "Transformation" has a Middle Eastern feel to it, and  "The Eleventh Dimension" sounds like intergalactic renaissance faire music.Often times there are jumps in mood, genre, etc in the middle of a song. This is fairly typical for an Ayreon release; what isn't typical is that technically this record consists of only four songs. These four songs are each at least twenty-one minutes, but they are cut up into forty-two pieces (yes, that's a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference) .This is a fun record. It's a record that does require a time commitment. I'd say listeners should treat it as a proper musical or film in a theater. Try to experience it all in one sitting for the full effect. It's absolutely worth it." - Metal Injection
    $17.00
  • Excellent US neoprog that will appeal to fans of Marillion and Iluvatar.
    $3.00
  • 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
  • "John Mitchell is a man with a rich musical heritage and history - from musician and vocalist, to songwriter and producer. So it’s no great surprise to find him as the mastermind behind a new project called Lonely Robot. The eponymous forthcoming album is the first time he has done something of this nature, and he's loved every minute of making it.“I can honestly say it's the most fun I've ever had in the studio. That's not to belittle anything I've done before but with this, I can wake up in the morning with a song idea in my head, write it and have it recorded by the evening.”Mitchell had long thought about embarking on a project like this, and when he found a break in his schedule due to plans for the next It Bites album being delayed, he finally took the opportunity.“People had suggested I do an album like this for a long time, but I procrastinated so much that in the end, it took Thomas Waber from InsideOut to push me into doing this.“With Lonely Robot, I have a clean slate and that's very exciting, because nobody expects anything in particular. It reminds me a lot of how things were when the Kino album [2005's ‘Picture’] was done, in that no-one knew what would come out of it. Musically, the Lonely Robot album is very proggy, but more about atmosphere than technical expertise. It reminds me in places of Kino and Frost*, but stands apart from both.”There are 11 songs in total, with the versatile Mitchell handling much of the instrumental performance and vocals himself. But he also lined up some intriguing musical talents to guest on it.“Craig Blundell does all the drums. I mapped out all the parts for him in advance, but he brought a lot of his personality to the songs.”Marillion vocalist Steve 'H' Hogarth performs on two songs, but not in his accustomed role. “He does backing vocals, yes. But his main contribution is playing the piano, which he does with such a delicate feel.“Throughout, what I wanted to do was to take the guests outside of what they're usually known for. For example, Kim Seviour from Touchstone sings on one track called ‘Oubliette’, and I got her to do it at the lower end of her vocal register, which she doesn’t normally get to use.”There are two other acclaimed singers featured on the album, the first being Heather Findlay.“We duet on a song entitled ‘Why Do We Stay’, which was actually the first one I wrote for the album. Heather is usually known for her folk style of singing but for this song, I gave her the brief of taking a more Kate Bush approach - breathy and emotive.”Perhaps a surprise inclusion on the album is Go West lead singer Peter Cox.“When you think of Peter, you immediately think of Eighties pop, don't you? But I felt his dusty baritone would suit my track ‘The Boy in the Radio’ perfectly.”Still on the 1980s pop trail, John also asked Nik Kershaw to contribute a guitar solo for the track ‘Humans Being’, as he’s long been a fan of his style. John also couldn’t resist asking good friend and keyboard player Jem Godfrey of Frost* fame to add his unique musical treatment to two tracks, including the title ’Lonely Robot’, with Nick Beggs playing bass and his signature Chapman Stick on a few other songs.There's one more significant contribution to the album. And that comes from the narration provided by renowned English actor Lee Ingleby.“He's one of Britain’s finest character actors right now. He was in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Master And Commander, as well as having the lead role in the recent BBC TV series ‘Our Zoo’. What I asked him to do was to provide motifs at certain key points in the album, to help to link everything together to the overall album theme.“The concept is about the way in which some ancient civilisations – for instance, the Mayans, the Egyptians and the Chinese – had technology way beyond what they should have had at the time. And I'm talking about the millennium up to 1000AD. It’s as if some people had been transplanted onto the planet from another world and time.”Mitchell also put a lot of thought into the overall project name. Lonely Robot isn't just the juxtaposition of two disparate words.“It represents the human condition. I'm not suggesting that human beings behave like robots, but so many people lead regimented lives and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not realise or know how to get out of it.”Lonely Robot is certainly the soundtrack of John Mitchell's prolific imagination coming to life.“What's the album like? Like nothing I've ever done before!”"
    $15.00
  • Second part of the English Electric concept dealing with life across the UK landscape.  What a beautiful album.  First off lets make it clear - Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford made a huge mistake.  Vocalist David Longdon should have been Phil Collins replacement in Genesis.  He would have fit like hand in glove.  The album features the band augmented by a variety of guest musicians including Andy Tillison of The Tangent who contributes organ, Moog, and Mellotron parts.  Its all very British sounding and once again a wonderful mix of old school prog and a more contemporary neoprog sound.  Highly recommended.
    $13.00
  • Superb return to form from these German masters of melodic progressive metal. Beyond Daylight exhibits many similarities to The God Thing and may well prove out to be their best effort yet.
    $15.00
  • Brilliant double live set clearly demonstrates that Mr. Hackett can still bring the thunder to the stage. The set was drawn from shows in Paris, London, and New York during the 2009/2010 tour. With a great line up and a set list that digss into his solo career as well as Genesis gems, this is impossible to pass up. Simply awesome!
    $12.00
  • I can't remember a buzz on a band's debut since Circus Maximus.  Perhaps due to the album being released in Japan a year ago and its unavailability elsewhere, maybe because they are lined up to play ProgPowerUSA.  Whatever the reason the album finally gets a wide debut and it was worth the wait.  Damnation Angels is a British symphonic metal band fronted by a Norwegian singer.  He goes by the name PelleK and was a contestant on Norway's version of X Factor.  The band's stock in trade is epic sounding metal that pays a huge debt to Kamelot.  The instrumental passages take on the grandeur and scope of Nightwish.  PelleK does a sold job out front - he's obviously listened to a Khan quite a bit.  Highly recommended.
    $14.00