As we approach the half way point of 2018 and enjoy the delights of many fabulous releases, The Progressive Aspect, in collaboration with Anthony Rowsick’s radio programme Prog-Watch, have collected together our “Best Albums of 2018 (so far)”. The programme will air on Progzilla Radio on Sunday 24th June 2018 at 1:30 pm, will be repeated again on Monday at 6:30 pm, and Wednesday at 11:00 pm (UK times). A podcast will be available for download later in the week.
Midas Fall – Evaporate
This is an album that draws you into their bewitching, spellbinding and powerful musical world. Elizabeth Heaton’s vocals are nothing short of wonderful, heartfelt and yearning supported by some great choices of instruments, all played by Rowen Burn and Elizabeth.
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
The band has released another excellent album that is compelling, imaginative and multi-layered. The music being both cinematic and almost ambient at times, yet still retaining those unsettling moments the band can do so well.
Malady – Toisen Toista
A Seventies prog influenced album which is an easy listen, creating a dreamlike feel with at times some edgy moments containing a lot of depth and detail, which rewards repeated plays.
Agusa – Agusa
This is an excellent album and if you are not familiar with the music coming out of Scandinavia at the moment, then this is a good place to start. The flute and organ lead the melodies and they have become an important part of their current sound.
Plenty – It Could be Home
There is quality throughout this album, from the production, sound, song writing and performances. This is an album that is a labour of love and attention which has brought these songs up to date without losing sight of their origins. An insight into what Tim Bowness brought to his next band No Man.
[Read the full TPA review]
I thought when they split that was the end and mourned; but the band have returned, some new personnel, stronger and different. This is the album Yes may have produced had they taken their Jazz chops further, an excellent and challenging album for PB but well worth the time and effort.
Weend’o – Time of Awakening
Loved this when first heard, strong vocals, thoughtful lyrics and thought provoking, broad influences all delivered to a high standard. Great live too, so look out for them.
Initially I thought, same as…but no, it has its own style and I suspect more of DK in presentation than his much loved prog influences. A really good 2nd album, and gets better with repeated loud listens.
A surprise, nicely laid back, broad in scope and delightful to relax with. Worth a punt if you’re looking for something away from the norm.
As wonderful as the first album, proof of the three minute prog song. No Shango, the thunder and roar remain though. Hints of broader appeal as Ben aged 15 asks who is that?
[Read the full TPA review]
My Indigo – My Indigo
A most unexpected album from Sharon den Adel, lead singer of symphonic progressive metal band Within Temptation. And what an album it is. Filled with the often sad wisdom of the journey on which life takes us all, yet powerful in expressing an organic and almost tribal celebration of life and the joy of being alive. A simply wonderful triumph of melodic music.
A wonderful showcase for the restless and creative spirit which lies at the very heart of progressive rock. Soaring melodies which fondly linger in the memory are cradled in layers of delicious harmonies, built on the bedrock of a spellbinding musical and technical virtuosity which provides a compelling enthusiasm and energy.
A beautifully rich and resonant album, filled with poignant lyrics and emotionally creative music. It speaks to the passing of time, the absence of familiar presences and the ever flowing tides of life on which we are all carried. Haunting, powerful and moving.
A masterful return to the classic Arena song-writing of twenty years ago; heavy, moody atmosphere blended with wonderful melodies which linger in the mind. An album which needs repeated listens to understand just how much is going on, echoes of the past merging with the heady rush of the new.
The return of the epic. Fiercely intelligent keyboard driven compositions, weaving mythical narratives with heavily textured soundscapes that express spellbinding technical virtuosity and sumptuous musical creativity in equal measure. Mesmerising.
Neil Campbell’s The Outsider is a slight departure for Neil, in that this latest release is his first concept album and based on William Morris’ 19th century, utopian socialist novel, ‘News from Nowhere’.
Once again Neil has delivered an inspired album and one that bodes well for parts two and three later this year.
For those interested Neil will be playing alongside Gong at this year’s EppyFest…
Based in York, U.K., and formed less than a year ago, Emperor Norton have wasted little time writing and recording their self-titled debut. What is more impressive is the confidence and surety of this release, from the overall concept, the individual performances and the cohesiveness of the ensemble as a whole.
…Emperor Norton have delivered a well thought out and crafted debut that is certainly an impressive calling card. Miss these guys at your peril.
The Video Game EP is half an hour of great fun with a backdrop that promises much for the future. It took a couple of listens before it started to fully gel, although the aforementioned DO A BARREL ROLL!!!!! was an instant hit. It is pretty intense from start to finish, so the other instant winner and the final cut Momo (Peach), was very welcome. It also shows a different side to the band and one that I hope they will explore more fully on their first full length album.
Bob also chose the following, echoing the sentiments of the other reviewers:-
Riversea – The Tide
Dobbeltgjenger – Limbohead
Atmospheric psychedelic-folk-jazz-soul backing fabulous song craft from the troubled Chicagoan troubador.
Prog-pop for folk who answer the door wearing nowt but a shocking pink merkin and a leery grin.
Monumental stoned colossus tramples everything underfoot, in between being rilly, rilly chilled. From the windblown deserts of Poland.
The world (well, my world, anyway) was waiting for this fabulous marriage made in a particle accelerator.
This is here as much for the craic as the music, which barrels along like an unstoppable lumbertruck. Gig of The Year (so far) was undoubtedly the album launch gig in deepest Camden. A fab night!
Whilst we could focus on the political content of this album (about Brexit) but one crucial question we have to ask is:
Does it actually work as a piece of music, a piece of art?
The answer is a resounding ‘YES’ – this is music brimming with ideas, variation, creativity, subtlety and power. I would suggest sitting down with a pot of tea, or maybe a nice bottle of red wine, and let the waves of Seas of Change sonically wash over you, allowing you to embrace the full scope and feeling of the music. Lee Abraham’s guitar work is impressive on this album alongside Nicholson’s excellent vocals and lyrical input. However, the real star of this whole album is Dean Baker on keyboards. Baker wrote all the music, arrangements and ‘orchestration’ – and ‘Orchestration’ is a very relevant term as he generates a bewildering range of sounds and effects from his keyboards akin to a full orchestra, giving this album a widescreen, cinematic effect. This album just sounds so ‘MASSIVE’ with impeccable and crystal clear production by the band. It’s truly epic and captivating.
This is a flowing, melodic and diverse debut album, encompassing straightforward hook filled rock such as Crimson Sky, the world music rhythms of Dreamcatching, the gentle acoustic sentiment of Seaglass Heart, the jazz inflections of No Man’s Land, the theatrical drama of the West End musical-like One Race, and most impressively the ornate progressive rock of Tears from the Sun. The gallery of singers Holden has assembled gives each song a distinctive character with songs suited for their voices.
The range and pedigree of the artists Holden persuaded to collaborate with him reveals the musical influences that permeate this album – there are definite echoes of Yes, Big Big Train, Steve Hackett, Mystery and Tiger Moth Tales amongst others, but Holden has also managed to produce an album with its own distinctive flavour and ‘feel’.
This remarkable debut album is definitely worth exploring and its origins are also rather inspiring. Of course not everyone has an album inside them as they lack the musical ability so evident in John Holden, but maybe we should all consider what may be locked inside us that could be expressed in some way…
Gazpacho return with their distinctive and trademark haunting, moving music with Soyuz, their tenth studio album since 2003. There really is no band quite like these Norwegian artists, who imbue each new release with their own unique brand of ambitious music full of idiosyncratic themes, inventive ideas, melancholy, emotion and drama.
Gazpacho’s music is sound architecture with subtle phases switching to waves of epic noise, underpinned by Kristian Torp’s powerful and measured bass. Andersen’s widescreen sweeping keyboards fill the mind with a range of sounds and atmospheres, Vilbo’s guitars with his variety of guitar effects are crucial in accentuating the juxtaposition of dark tragedy and melancholy. Ohme’s singing is outstanding, as throughout the album, as he vocalises contrasting soft melancholy with much more powerful passages. A challenging album at times but so satisfying in the end.
The main man behind the C: Live Collective is Clive Mitten from the notable progressive rock band of the 1980’s, Twelfth Night. This is a fascinating debut album from this new band, featuring Fudge Smith (previously of Pendragon) on drums, the multi-talented Mark Spencer (previously of Twelfth Night and now Alan Reed and the Daughters of Expediency )on guitar and vocals, and Stephen Bennett on piano and keyboards. This album announces this band as a bold, imaginative and truly progressive act. The three instrumental sections of The Fifth Estate meld together all sorts of styles including orchestral sounds, trance dance rhythms, jazz inflected sections and rock. This is complex music with a mixture of styles. Truly ‘progressive’ and challenging, and definitely more artistically daring – particularly their modern, pulsating and intensive take on the classic Twelfth Night song ‘We are Sane’. Spencer vocals are sinister, dramatic and impassioned. Mitten atmospherically orchestrates the eerie opening with effective but restrained sound effects and adding thundering bass with Fudge Smith pounding along. Filled with anger and feeling in a post-Trump / post Grenfell world it’s hardly surprising!
Riversea return with their first album since 2012, The Tide, a fine release of emotional maturity expressed beautifully through a skilled and sensitive synthesis of music and lyrics. It is clear that both Marc Atkinson and Brendan Eyre, the songwriters in Riversea, have been through some trying personal times, facing loss. All our lives ebb and flow over the years, and as we grow older we become increasingly aware that in the end nothing or no-one can hold back The Tide – it’s how we cope with those changes and losses that really matters.
Riversea have produced a beautiful, resonant and at times brave album – maybe part of it may have helped them cope with the changing Tides of life. It will certainly provide great food for thought and some solace for listeners.
Musically and lyrically this album is sheer class, and one of the best releases of 2018 so far.
Because good prog comes in many forms and all these great albums reflect that brilliantly both respecting the past but also bravely breaking news ground and sounds
This is a totally instrumental tour de force from Fernando, and one which harks back to classic era progressive rock from the 1970s, with tracks dedicated to some of his musical heroes, including Peter Banks (The Architect), Focus (De Boerdeij), Curved Air (Sonja) and John Wetton (Starless).
John also chose the following, links above:-
C:Live Collective – The Age of Insanity
Mothertongue – Where the Moonlight Snows
The Fierce and the Dead – The Euphoric
Riversea – The Tide