All posts for the month December, 2020

This news story was originally published here:

In this update we feature:

• Ancient Veil – Unplugged Live
• Blue Oyster Cult – Agents Of Fortune – 40th Anniversary Live Performance
• Quest Ensemble – Live At CCB Lisbon [EP]
• Liontortoise – Live At Dog House Music
• Erum – Zhu
• Iced Earth – Alive In Athens (20th Anniversary)

Ancient Veil – Unplugged Live
Kevan Furbank
Ancient Veil – Unplugged Live

SOME Italian prog bands can come across as a bit overwrought, like Puccini has got hold of a dozen Mellotrons and is playing them all at the same time. But some, like Ancient Veil, are capable of both light and dark, loud and soft, high drama and gentle contemplation. This live album, recorded last year and in 2017, presents some of the band’s back catalogue – including the Rings Of Earthly Light suite from earlier incarnation Eris Pluvia – in an acoustic setting.

Led by Fabio Serri’s piano, Alessandro Serri’s acoustic guitar and the woodwind of Edmondo Romano, it’s an appealing slice of pastoral folk-prog in which the songs take on an almost medieval guise. At times you can imagine King Henry VIII leading whichever queen still has her head through a courtly dance as Romano weaves lyrical tapestries of sound on alto recorder.

Occasionally Fabio gets on the electric keyboards, Massimo Palermo and Marco Fuliano turn up the bass and drums and the band get a bit darker and heavier, hinting at some of the more proggy moments on their studio albums. Final track You’ll Become Rain, for example, is an all-too-brief spirited jig that leaves you wanting more.

But the emphasis here is on leading you by the hand through a sunlight woodland accompanied by sweet, melodious acoustic sounds.

Having released two live albums in succession – this follows 2018’s Rings Of Earthly…Live – it’s surely time for some new material from this talented group. Until then, Unplugged, er, plugs the hole nicely.

Blue Oyster Cult – Agents Of Fortune 40th Anniversary Live Performance
Tony Colvill
Blue Oyster Cult – Agents Of Fortune – 40th Anniversary Live Performance

Pretty much loved the studio album when it came out, a contrast to my Genesis obsession. Fronted by the curiously named Buck Dharma, they were a rock/progressive band with some great tracks and the standout cowbell concentrated, Don’t Fear The Reaper. Do I love this album? Yes, and sort of; the original 1976 album I hold very dear, it was great fun and wasn’t Genesis. Reaper stood out, but I enjoyed it all. And now forty years later the live performance of said album, recorded on 18th April 2016 at Red Studios in Hollywood. The musicians are older but slick and professional, Buck Dharma sings beautifully but carries the weight of years, the voice has deepened, changing the tone.

This is a particularly good live album, a little flat in energy from the sound desk, but a good live album of what, for me at least, was a great album. The fact that it was an invited audience may explain the atmosphere. In this case I sadly have to say one mainly for the fans. Don’t give up hope though as The Symbol Remains, the current album is getting particularly good reviews. This album is available on Blu-ray, but I cannot guarantee the quality (also on YouTube, try before buy?)

Quest Ensemble – Live At CCB Lisbon [EP]
Bob Mulvey
Quest Ensemble – Live At CCB Lisbon [EP]

Released in November 2020, this fascinating EP captures Quest Ensemble in an intimate, audio visual performance, recorded at Lisbon’s Cultural Centro de Belém and as part of the 2018 Big Bang Festival.

All the tracks performed at CBB would eventually appear on the trio’s sophomore album, released earlier this year. “A thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable album” was my conclusion of said album and if you so desire, a more detailed critique of the music can be found in here in the TPA review of The Other Side.

All the tracks on Live At CCB Lisbon are perfectly formed, both structurally and melodically and reflect the versions found on The Other Side. The one exception is The Whip/Moment which have been linked.

So far, all very matter of fact and informative, but little in terms of what enjoyment you might derive. The joy of QE lies in their wonderful interweaving and blending of cultures, where spontaneous minimalism meets classical and jazz, creating a contemporary musical melange of intrigue. Just take a listen…

Would certainly be intrigued to see the visual element of this concert released?

Liontortoise – Live At Dog House Music
Bob Mulvey
Liontortoise – Live At Dog House Music

Back in January of this year, Denver based, instrumental quartet, Liontortoise released their debut EP, Photosynthesis, and bloody marvellous it was too. And I said so. In fact so impressed, and despite the fact that it was an EP, it will be finding it’s way into my ‘top five point five’ in this year’s TPA Scribblers Poll.

I’m gathering Live at Dog House Music isn’t one those rare events in 2020 – a real gig (with people), but more a live at the Dog House Music rehearsal/studios event. However that’s no indicator that this a run of the mill performance. Kicking off this live EP is one of the standout tracks from their debut, here segued with the brief Seed. Once the v3 kicks in the band are on fire. These guys know how to achieve heavy, and it’s not by turning up to 11, it is all about dynamics.

Now it would have been oh so easy just to trot out 4 tracks from their debut and stick it on Bandcamp. But what we have is three new tunes, full of their trademark, angular riffs, catchy themes and once again propelled by the muscular rhythm section, who understand and embrace the word – groove. Love the bass higher in the mix too!

As a live recording LADHM is great, as might be expected it lacks that studio sheen, so I’m presuming that what we have here are three new tracks getting a ‘road test’, as bands do, prior to entering the studio to record a new album?

Live at Dog House Music by Liontortoise

Erum – Zhu
Eric Strother
Erum - Zhu

Denmark’s saxophone-fronted metal band Erum is the band I wanted to be in back in college. It’s Weather Report and Spyro Gyra to the next level, wedding the sound of saxophones with a hard and heavy rhythm section. Their debut EP, Zhu, is an excellent foray into this soundscape. “Zhu” is a Mandarin word that translates to “to live” in English, and each of the songs on the release seems to be the band bringing life to the opening motives and riffs like some Coltrane-esque experiment.

Sometimes I feel like it is too focused on replicating and playing with those riffs rather than trying to create something musically interesting, especially when the songs just end rather than resolving, but overall, it is an enjoyable, experimental six-song jam session of a recording.

Iced Earth – Alive In Athens (20th Anniversary)
Eric Strother
Alive In Athens (20th Anniversary)

Iced Earth’s epic Alive In Athens is twenty years old and getting a proper vinyl reissue. Spanning five LPs, this reissue addresses some of the flaws in the original release, including the live version of Colors, missing from the original and a re-sequencing that maintains the integrity of the between-song banter.

Musically, it’s Iced Earth at its finest staking its claim as heir to Iron Maiden’s mantle. There’s nothing particularly “progressive” about the music; it’s just three-plus hours of pure American power metal at its finest.

More great, new, astounding progressive sounds await on this week’s Prog-Watch! We’ll hear music from Hyco, The Weever Sands, Jump, Great Wide Nothing, Violent Silence and Antony Kalugin! Plus, our friend and resident reviewer, Dr. Rob Fisher, will take us on a voyage of Progressive Discovery with the latest album by Tony Lowe’s ESP Project!

751: Variety + The ESP Project on Progressive Discoveries


Proving that prog isn't just for dinosaurs!

I’m delighted to announce that the podcast for edition 373 of Live From Progzilla Towers is now available.

In this edition we heard the following music:

  • Big Big Train – Kingmaker
  • Billie Bottle & The Multiple – Cogs (Single)
  • Mildlife – Vapour
  • David Minasian – Twin Flames At Twilight
  • Terje Rypdal – Conspiracy
  • Chimpan A – Stars
  • Late Night Final – Thank You
  • Blank Manuskript – Side A (Part 1-4)
  • Ellesmere – Endeless
  • Votum – Prey (Ft. Anneke Van Giersbergen)
  • ESP Project – Before Saturn Turned Away
  • ESP Project – Telesthesia
  • Hedvig Mollestad – Antilone
  • Deftones – Genesis
  • Crippled Black Phoenix – Lost
  • Osiris – Take A Closer Look
  • Ozric Tentacles – Eternal Wheel
  • Matt Berry – Something In My Eye

iTunes/iPod users*: Just search for ‘Progzilla’ or subscribe to:


This news story was originally published here:

Lucid Planet’s second album, II, is quite simply the best prog metal album of the year. You can carry on reading if you like, but you’re basically wasting time that you could spend listening to this absolute belter of an album. For those uninitiated with the band, Lucid Planet is an Australian trio who play a heavy psychedelic brand of prog metal which is often compared to Tool. Now, I was expecting to like this new album, as I enjoyed the debut. But I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, and that’s what happened. Everything about II is bigger and better than what came before. The growth and evolution of the band is astounding. There is definitely no sophomore slump here!

Just in case there was any doubt, the band open II with the longest number on the album, Anamnesis. It takes almost a minute of almost ambient music that sounds both natural and unnatural, before the rhythm kicks in, and then the vocals. I absolutely love Luke Turner’s vocals. They’re dynamic and melodic, and so damn expressive. They contrast beautifully with the deep and sonorous bass and guitar riffs. Within the expanse of Anamnesis, we hear hints of much of the genre bending fusion of sounds that Lucid Planet play with. What makes II such a fresh and enjoyable listen is the way Lucid Planet integrate elements of psytrance, electronica and dub into their heavy psychedelic mix. Straightforward prog metal this is not, and even those who are not great lovers of that genre might still find a lot of enjoyment here. Although anamnesis can have a conventional medical meaning, it is also used when talking about an individual’s recollection of past lives. I’m fairly confident that Lucid Planet had the latter in mind, and this feeling is only reinforced as the album progresses, then brings us back to the present with the final track, Zenith.

Entrancement again begins with ambient sounds, but this time they sound completely natural – and ancient. The way the band uses chant and traditional instruments is incredibly effective, and when a primal mantra floats over them like the chant of some sort of malevolent shaman, it’s hair-raising. Jade Alice plays beauty to the beast, and when the two voices combine it has an eerie and almost unsettling effect that is strangely entrancing. There’s really not a lot to this song, and it goes to show that you don’t need to fill a song with complexity and technicality to make it great, and my only complaint is that it doesn’t segue into Organic Hard Drive in the way I wish it would. It’s like Tool’s Parabol and Parabola being unnecessarily distinct. I really love Organic Hard Drive, though, which hits like a trip, coming on hard, and then slowing down, before hitting an EDM groove at the halfway point that I’m sure surprised many a Lucid Planet listener. But it works! Boy does it work!

Although Organic Hard Drive does calm down in the final minutes, it takes Offer to truly take the edge off the rush. And this peaceful offering is actually another new sound for the band, more stripped down than they’ve ever been. What this really does, is show off just how great Luke Turner’s vocals are. And I love the dub sound, which works so well with heavier music. Trio and Blindspott are two other heavier bands who have utilised dub in their music, and Lucid Planet join them with Offer. While the song is relatively stripped back, it still crescendos, and the climax (if not as heavy or loud) is just as powerful as any other on the album. It also segues beautifully into On The Way (which only reminds me how much I want Entrancement into Organic Hard Drive.

Jade Alice is back for some harmony vocals, and it’s amazing how much of an impact they have. This may be a very strange comparison but On The Way reminds me a little of blackened folk metal bands like Sojourner, which is odd because they have nowhere near the same style or sound as Lucid Planet do here. And yet, On The Way has the same aural effect of feeling like an epic journey is being undertaken. The changing textures and metres only emphasise this imagery, as do the numerous sound effects. It reminds me a lot of scenes from the Lord of the Rings films, where Sam and Frodo are determinedly plodding onward. The feeling of movement is so strong, I almost feel like my legs are tired but the time the song ends!

Digital Ritual, which follows, feels like the opposite of Entrancement. If that were natural and ancient, Digital Ritual is inorganic and modern. The dub on this track borders on dubstep, which is another glorious experiment from Lucid Planet that works remarkably well. The symphonic element that appears provides a very strange contrast to the bubbling sounds of electronica that surround it. It makes a nice lead in to Face The Sun, which uses the stereotypical Egyptian melody (you’ll know it when you hear it, if you’re not sure what I’m talking about) in a more modern musical setting, providing the same contrast of old and new that was introduced in Digital Ritual, though the older feels like it begins to take more precedence as the song progresses. By the time the bridge hits, Face The Sun marches on like On The Way before it, but this time on camels in a desert, rather than hobbits on a mountain top.

Face The Sun leads straight into Zenith, as we come to the end of an album that’s taken us from A to Z. Despite being only the third longest song on the album, Zenith actually feels the most epic – which is entirely appropriate for a closing number. Almost everything that has come before coalesces into one glorious whole, which seems full of optimistic realisation, rather than resolution. Zenith concludes the album with the feeling (to me, at least) that the trips and journeys undertaken to reach this point may be over, but not fully resolved. We have reached the zenith, the highest observation point possible, and the story is passed on to us, the listeners. Where it take us from here, is up to us.

01. Anamnesis (12:24)
02. Entrancement (5:33)
03. Organic Hard Drive (9:38)
04. Offer (4:14)
05. On The Way (9:37)
06. Digital Ritual (4:57)
07. Face The Sun (11:48)
08. Zenith (9:55)

Total Time – 68:06

Michael Box – Guitar
Darcy Rank – Guitar, Synth
Luke Turner – Vocals, Bass
~ with
Chris Cameron – Drums, Percussion
Jade Alice – Vocals
Daniel Richardson – Didgeridoo, Flute
Dan Samways – Flute
Emir Khosrowshahi – Flute
Clare Lynch – Violin

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Australia
Date of Release: 14th November 2020

Lucid Planet – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube


As we didn’t get a chance to play the whole of IQ’s ‘The Dark Christmas Suite’ on this year’s Christmas show, here’s a remastered show from December 2017. No amount of remastering can compensate for the breathless, nay shouty, delivery of the presenter, or a cheap USB microphone, but we’ve done what we could eq/compression/loudness-wise to master it for a podcast audience and have tidied up a few crude segues.



IZZ – Late Night Salvation

The J Geils Band – Centerfold

Bachman Turner Overdrive – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

OK Goodnight – Awake

Leslie Hunt & Robin McAuley – Fairytale of New York

Blue Öyster Cult – Box in my Head

Blue Öyster Cult – ME 262 (live)

American Tears – Woke

Albert Bouchard – The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria

Circuline – Soleil Now (live)

Circuline – One Wish (live)

Christopher Lee – The Little Drummer Boy

Jon Davison – Run With the Fox

Steve Morse – Carol of the Bells

Spinal Tap – Christmas With The Devil

Cheer-Accident – The Dark Side of the Tracks

Nathan Mahl – Orgasmik Outburst (part 2)

Sparks – National Crime Awareness Week

Dweezil Zappa – Wonderful Christmastime

This news story was originally published here:

Cards on the table from the start: You need this album.

Remember my Geph reviews? Yes, of course you do! But as a reminder, I urge you to check them out (Geph & Apophenia). Geph’s Tyler Kent put me on to Patrick S. Barry and his album, ‘20. Patrick and I then had a brief Facebook chat, during which, probably in a mistaken attempt to hook me like a Phish/Fish (see what I did there?), he suggested that the album has “a lot of ’70s prog flavour”.

A wry smile crossed my face, and anyone who has read my reviews probably thought exactly what I was thinking: “He doesn’t know me at all, does he?”

Well, no.

Despite the somewhat transparent ploy to get me interested (I tease) and me being possibly the second-least-biggest-prog-fan-at-TPA, I agreed to spin it up on my hard drive and do words for it. This is those words.

Despite the obvious reference to this weird year, ’20 feels, at first, very much like the 1970s. Which is hugely ironic, don’t you think? This is sophisticated, highly polished soft rock of the kind that spilled out of Southern California in that decade. It’s an archetypal “American” album, yet paradoxically, hints of some of the more experimental British artists of that era, like Eno and 10cc. I hesitate to use the word “eclectic” because on first listen this isn’t a massively diverse collection of styles. Actually, I always hesitate to use the word “eclectic”.

The rather unkindly labelled “Yacht Rock” bands – a genre, Steely Dan fans tell me, that Steely Dan should not be grouped with – is a flavour of music I know all too little about. That was my big sister’s music. By now you should know that ‘reminded me of’ and ‘sounds like’ are not the same thing, nevertheless, Steely Dan fans wouldn’t enjoy me saying some of the songs on ’20 reminded me of the popular singles that Steely Dan are remembered for. So, I won’t (wink). Any comparison is a compliment – I’d never chuck an album by Yacht Rockers or Steely Dan off the record deck (ooh, decks, yachts… coincidence? Yes). I have nothing but respect for the perfection in the songwriting, performances and production on those old records. Pristine stuff. In ‘20, I believe Patrick pays affectionate homage to it all – and he does it extremely well, even down to the little subtleties, like the piano flourishes in Harlequinade.

And then, just when I think I have it all sussed, that I’m comfortable with it all and I’d run with the 1970s comparisons, there’s The Boys Who Broke Your Heart. This reminds me of the early 1980s solo work of Be-Bop Deluxe guitarist Bill Nelson and his EP Chimera – very much a product of the 1980s. Plus it has an Elvis Costello-ish Bontempi organ solo. Then Patrick hits us with Monkey’s Organ Grinder, which feels like the illegitimate lovechild of Devo and La Folie era Stranglers. There are even strong hints of XTC in Monkey’s Organ Grinder and again in Crackers & Coffee, yet all of these songs fit well with the other tracks.

My initial assessment was utterly oversimplified. Clearly there’s more to this than sounds and phrases from the seventies West Coast, albeit peppered with somewhat anachronistic, contemporary sounds. Before I read the credits from the Bandcamp page, my superficial observation was that the drums were either really well programmed plugins, or perhaps a Roland V-Drum set played by a human. The credits show that some tracks were indeed a real drummer. More evidence to blow my 1970s thingy even further out of the water; the drum machines on ‘20 sound akin to the now iconic Roland CR-78 drum machine, à la Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s Enola Gay, Hall & Oates’s I Can’t Go For That, Phil Collins solo work and Genesis’s Duke, Peter Gabriel’s third album… the list goes on. All of these came after 1980.

The songs are actually relatively timeless, and possibly only the performance pigeonholes them as from any particular time or genre. I could imagine The Wonder Stuff, very much a ‘90s band, performing My Glass Saxophone, yet it would have sat equally comfortably amongst any of the songs on Billy Joel’s Glass Houses LP, albeit with the late Dave Greenfield on keys. That’s probably a reflection on the songwriting, rather than the instrumentation.

With sticking to a genre, there’s always the danger that you end up with a samey, silky, conveyor belt of homogenised songs. With ’20, Patrick has not fallen into that trap. Sprinkled over the songs here and there are little genre cameos, like Zappa-like backing vocals on Illusion of Choice, and other rather silky, polished vocal harmonies, reminiscent of Kansas! Hang on – aren’t they a Progressive Rock Band?


And if you like Kansas then you’ll like the harmonies and feel of Bubblegum Boy. This prog patina isn’t just a collection of “prog tropes”, much to my delight. I was unable to identify any vaguely altered bits of Apocalypse in 9/8 or similar such nonsense. I’d say that the “prog” element, if prog be needed, in the context of ’20 is the clearly defined segued segments, showing that the skills displayed on this recording also include arrangement.

The opening for Song For Henryk could have been lifted from a Jon & Vangelis album… BeBop-Deluxe, Kansas, 10cc (yes, 10cc are a progressive rock band – fight me), Phil Collins (maybe not Phil Collins), Jon & Vangelis? The clues were all there! There IS prog! It’s the absence of contrived prog-style rip-offs – I mean “inspiration”, the lack of strange meters or eBow – that initially bamboozled me.

I’m going to pre-empt criticism here by asking whether this sophisticated sound is contrived. Probably. Who cares? Just listening to ’20 I felt sophisticated by proxy! And I liked the feeling. Besides, the question is nonsensical, contrived sophistication?

I’m a man of a certain age, I’m supposed to like prog. But rather unkindly I lump prog fans together. I wrongly assume none of them like other music. Prog snobs most definitely exist, and are pretty vocal about it, but they’re the bad apples. I am puzzled by those people. I’m suspicious, because they’re lacking a sense of adventure and filling an absence of broad taste with familiarity. I like to avoid it, look forward.

‘20 makes me nostalgic for the music that people in the Sixth Form at school were listening to when I was 15. It reminds me of the music I was listening to when I was 19.

I am clearly quite wrong to dwell on similarities to particular genres or eras. ‘20 has more to it than that. ’20 is a nostalgic, not proggy album that is slightly proggy. If prog is what you’re into then, if that’s what you’re into, you should like this.

I believe that these songs should have a broad appeal. One foot in the seventies, one foot in the eighties, one in nineties… just how many temporal feet does Patrick have? Well-constructed, influences used as building blocks for something new. Did I mention the tunes? Yes. There are loads of tunes. Look, I have to stop now, or this review will be one of those TLDR reviews and that would defeat the object. I feel as if I found something valuable and I want to share it with you all. You absolutely need this album. Buy it for Christmas or something.

Favourite track? Under Summer’s Nose.

That is all.

01. Illusion of Choice (5:20)
02. My Glass Saxophone (2:54)
03. Song For Henryk (7:32)
04. Harlequinade (3:01)
05. Under Summer’s Nose (4:30)
06. Song in C (Sweet Validation) (4:32)
07. The Boys Who Broke Your Heart (3:48)
08. Monkey’s Organ Grinder (3:36)
09. Man Made Rivers (8:20)
10. Crackers & Coffee (4:01)
11. Bubblegum Boy (5:33)
12. 10 & 2 (4:04)

Total Time – 57:11

Patrick S. Barry – All Instruments, Vocals, Production, Writing, Engineering
~ Except:
Gina Monafo – Backing Vocals
Clinton Degan – Guitar Solo (on Song For Henryk)
Jim Schultz – Drums (on Under Summer’s Nose & Monkey’s Organ Grinder)
Bryan Murphy – Trumpet (on Song in C)
Adam Schneider – Guitar Solo (on Man Made Rivers)
Luke Gosselin – Saxophone (on Bubblegum Boy)
Nate Nemitz – Intro Audio Blurbery (on 10 & 2)
Brian Bradford – Intro Audio (to Illusion of Choice)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 18th December 2020

Patrick S. Barry – Facebook | Bandcamp

This news story was originally published here:

This news is a few days old but I figured I would post it since nobody else has. From the face book page:

The Rites of Spring Festival says “Goodbye, for now”.

RoSfest has been a treasure in the progressive rock world for the last 17 years and it has been my privilege to produce and host one of the best progressive rock music festivals in the world, but RoSfest will officially end its 16-year run in 2020. Dedicated to delivering the highest level of talent, production, and timing is central to what RoSfest represented; an outlet for a niche genre called Progressive Rock that provided a venue for new up and coming artists from around the globe.

Running a music festival can be breathtakingly rewarding, but also quite expensive due to production, insurance, venue rental, hotel rental, staff accommodations, band expenses, vehicle rentals, etc. Additionally, the US government has made it harder and harder to acquire permits for working artists from around the world to perform in the US. Increasing artist permit requirements and fees makes it almost impossible for young bands to travel abroad. RoSfest has been a labor of love but has been struggling financially for years and can’t survive another “Covid” crisis. Unfortunately, we are not able to keep operating the festival at a loss.

On a personal note, I feel so lucky to have been part of this organization. To work with such an incredible staff and dedicated volunteers and to interact with the best Progressive audiophiles in the world. RoSfest has been magical and could not have existed without YOU…. the best and most supportive audience anyone could hope for. Without such an incredible community, RoSfest would not have been possible. I am so thankful for all of your support and dedication throughout our festival years.

RoSfest will continue its core mission to support the art of Progressive Rock and may surprise you (at some point) with a special concert in the future. But for now, with tearful heartfelt thanks from all of us at RoSfest, it’s been an honor to interact with such accomplished and inspiring musicians and music lovers in the progressive rock community.

In the words of RoSfest’s production manager, Kevin Madrishin, “We did it right!”

George Roldan

THE PROGRESSIVE TRACKS SHOW #396 (Last New Music of 2020)

I’ll take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation for all the artists who have not only persevered through this pandemic, but seemed to thrive on the alternating chaos and isolation.

We’re all better for your creative efforts.
This week we explore more of this year’s creations.
  • Arch Echo – “Strut” from Story I – EP on Arch Echo (2020)
  • PAMPS! Les Pamplemousses Ethyliques – “Caracas” from Ozymandias on PAMPS! Les Pamplemousses Ethyliques (2020)
  • Meriadec Gouriou Trio – “Robertoy” from Meriadec Gouriou on Meriadec Gouriou (2020)
  • ORGANIC NOISES – “Hoondz” from reCreation on ORGANIC NOISES (2020)
  • Jonatan Piña Duluc – “Secuencia III, Confirmación” from Sountrack Vol. I, Secuencia  on Jonatan Piña Duluc  (2020)
  • Fractal Sun – “Visions II: Holographic Depiction” from Turmoil on 2076460 Records DK2 (2020)
  • Stick Men with Gary Husband – “CUSP” from Owari on MoonJune Records (2020)
  • Acadence – “Presence” from New Worlds on Acadence (2020)
  • Jumble Hole Clough – “Insomniac” from I can name the un-named boy on Jumble Hole Clough (2020)
  • Layma Azur – “Arlee” from Adéu on (2020)
  • Guy Buttery & Kanada Narahari – “Sonokota” from Nāḍī on Guy Buttery (2020)
  • The Grand Astoria – “Njanatiloka” from From the Great Beyond – EP on [addicted label] (2020)

Feel free to contact me any time via email:

And remember, you can access podcasts of any previous Progressive Tracks Show at: (there are over 235 podcasts now!).

Most importantly, SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST below, so you’ll have it delivered to your fingertips weekly! ˅˅˅˅˅˅˅˅

This news story was originally published here:

Ruins, the new album from Daniel Tompkins is new, and yet it isn’t – and that is the greatest problem I have with it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike it, but nor does it set my world on fire, and it just feels kind of, well, I’m not really sure, unnecessary, I guess. I am almost certain I would have liked this more if it had been released before Tompkins debut solo release Castles – but then I also think that if this had been released before Castles, there may have never been a Castles. For Ruins is essentially that album given a rock revamp. And, though I hope I’m wrong, it feels somewhat like it may have been made to placate those Tompkins fans who were expecting something more like this the first time around (Fans are fickle things, and for all those who complimented the album, there were a lot who complained). But, with one exception (and that’s the only track that is new for this release), the Castles versions of the songs are superior to those on Ruins. Obviously this is a completely subjective take, and there will no doubt be many who think otherwise, but I can only tell it as I hear it.

I will admit I was surprised when I first heard Castles – but pleasantly so. Given the variety Tompkins has provided via the various bands he has lent his vocal talents to, no one could really have known what his first solo album might sound like, but I’m willing to bet not too many were expecting the experimental electronic treat we received, nor that of the thirteen tracks, six were remixes, and three of those remixes were of just one song. That the remixes were just as important to the album as the originals was obvious by the fact that the two singles that I’m aware were released from it were two of those remixes. And I guess, in a way, Ruins could be looked upon as a further seven remixes – Daniel Tompkins further down the spiral. But they seem so bland in comparison. It’s Daniel Tompkins sounding as you expect him to sound, and I think what I really like is when he sounds like I was not expecting him to.

What makes Castles so special for me is the minimalism, expansiveness and subtlety. Castles has as rich and colourful a palette as its cover art, and is refreshing in its vulnerability. It is sublime, haunting, abstract and emotive. Each track, the remixes included, are gorgeous slices of progressive pop – and I actually prefer the remixes to the original tracks, where the electronic and trip hop vibes are pushed even further. All that is lost on Ruins. Ruins is, well, just that for me: a reminder that something great was once here. It’s beautiful in itself, but it will never hold the grandeur of what stood before it crumbled into ruins. I feel like it might read that I’m being unduly harsh, and actually this is a solid 7/10 album for me. Or, at least I think it is, if I can push out of my head what preceded it. But that’s the biggest problem I have with Ruins, as the shadows of Castles forever loom large in my mind.

In a way, I’m surprised, as I usually really enjoy when an album gets this sort of treatment. As some may have guessed from my “further down the spiral” comment above, I’m a big fan of the Nine Inch Nails remix albums. Closer Than God is pretty much an hour of the one song in different iterations, but it’s amazing! I like it, and Further Down the Spiral, as much as The Downward Spiral itself. But those albums all took the songs forward and onward to new things. Ruins feels more like it’s looking backwards, or at best, sideways. But I’m aware I’m probably in the minority. Fans of the heavier music of Daniel Tompkins will eat up the more technical and aggressive nature of Ruins. The vocals are harsher, the guitars are heavier (there are some amazing solos). It’s all good. I love TesseracT and Skyharbor. I should love this, and it frustrates me a little that I don’t. But, as I have said, I don’t dislike it. I wouldn’t have bothered attempting a full review for this album, if I didn’t think it were worth the effort.

So let’s try and finish up with what I like about the album. For a start, I love that the songs are not just rocked up versions of those on Castles. Pretty much all that remains the same are the lyrics, and some of the vocal melodies. These are effectively different songs, hence why (I presume) they have been given different names. The songs were re-written with Paul Ortiz (aka Chimp Spanner). Both Castles and Ruins are dark albums, but where Castles was dark inwardly, Ruins is outwardly and overtly dark. Just to ram home the differences, the album ends with a new track, The Gift. It’s my favourite track on the album, and I’m not quite sure if it’s just because I have no previous version to compare it with, or if it genuinely is that much more impressive and enjoyable. Regardless, it’s a great way to end the album. I’m just not sure how often I’ll listen to it. For sure, I’ll pull it out every now and then, but Castles will still be my go-to.

01. Wounded Wings (Feat. Plini) (5:53)
02. Ruins (5:29)
03. Tyrant (4:56)
04. Stains of Betrayal (4:52)
05. Empty Vows (3:58)
06. Sweet The Tongue (4:30)
07. A Dark Kind of Angel (4:38)
08. The Gift (Feat. Matthew K Heafy) (3:53)

Total Time – 38:09

Daniel Tompkins – Vocals, Co-Producer
~ With:
Eddie Head (Haji’s Kitchen) – Producer
Matt Heafy (Trivium) – Guitar, Vocals (track 8)
Paul Ortiz (Chimpspanner) – Composer, Co-Producer
Plini – Guitar (track 1)

Record Label: Kscope
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 11th December 2020

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