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Last 50 reviews
Studio Album, 1992
3.64 | 156 ratings

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Somewhere Far Beyond
Blind Guardian Progressive Metal

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

Power metal is a genre that I've had a lot of back and forth interactions with. There have been many points in time where I've decided to give it another shot only to be met with the same reality every time, I'm just not a huge fan of it. Over time I've come to realise why I haven't completely dropped this pursuit, and the answer is pretty simple, I don't like the idea of completely dismissing a genre, but also, Blind Guardian absolutely rules. Somewhere Far Beyond marks a bit of a middle ground in in the band's style, taking from a lot of those speed metal elements from their earlier material, yet also leaning really hard into these dramatic, soaring melodies more reminiscent of regular power metal from their later era, and this is where I feel like a lot of their appeal stems from to me. This more aggressive take on the genre without abandoning the core elements of it leads to this having a certain bite to it that gives its grandiose, wonderfully excessive nature so much more impact, all while backing it up with some consistently catchy and effective songwriting.

Time What is Time kicks off the album and is one of the all time great metal songs from my perspective. The song erupts with energy very quickly after its fun acoustic intro and basically doesn't slow down at all. The way this escalates so intensely is electrifying, doing it at such a rapid pace that it hits the point of having a certain erratic quality to it, but it also knows the perfect point to peak and ground the song with the chorus, stopping it from feeling a bit too full-on. The chorus itself really seals the deal as well, it's incredibly fun, with Hansi's vocal performance bringing so much conviction to it all. While the album follows a pretty similar pattern for the most part, the majority of these songs do something distinct and interesting enough to differentiate themselves from the pack. Examples include the more consistent pacing of Theatre of Pain combined with its orchestral flourishes, the folky sounds of The Bard's Song - The Hobbit or the mournful tone of Ashes to Ashes. All of these varying directions taken contribute to Somewhere Far Beyond having a lot of personality without sacrificing any of its defining traits, the melodies remain grandiose, and the riffs remain incredible.

Despite all of what's been said, I feel that the thing that truly elevates this to something even greater is the was it can slow down once in a while without feeling like a low point in the experience. Both the Quest for Tanelorn and The Bard's Song - In the Forest are perfect pace breakers that keep the epic imagery and atmosphere going strong, both being able to pain vivid pictures of this rich, detailed fantasy world. Overall this is just a consistently great album without much of a lull in its quality, bringing in a certain aggression that makes the incredibly dramatic nature of it feel way more appealing to me. While I feel like Somewhere Far Beyond ends up being a bit long winded, with this sort of dense music all blending together a bit by the end, even with the aforementioned pace breakers alleviating this issue to a degree, I cannot deny that every song has its place here, and that Somewhere Far Beyond is an excellent showcase of Blind Guardian's talent.

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Studio Album, 2009
3.93 | 31 ratings

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According to Life...
The Carpet Knights Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

I'm going to ramble a bit but I'm so looking forward to jumping into Psychedelic music with both feet this coming new year. This is sort of like throwing myself a bone I suppose listening to one of my favourite Swedish Psychedelic bands this past week. I'm such a fan of their debut "Lost And So Strange Is My Mind" released back in 2005. Well I scooped up their second album "According To Life..." released in 2009 with a new rhythm section in tow. They still are a five piece of two guitarists, vocals/ flute, bass and drums.

These guys create powerful music often but the flute and mellow sections are excellent contrasts. I like the vocals sung in English. This band has had connections with ORESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE right from the start but also one of the guitarists here and the new bass player started HOOFFOOT the same year this record was released in 2009. Funny how the new bass player Par Hallgren discovered RPI, 70's Jazz and Ktautrock all late in his life and he says that IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO's "YS" changed his life.

The music here is almost like a guilty pleasure with the guitar, vocals and flute and it's often straight forward. I'm not huge on the opener but after that I mean there's four straight tracks that hit the spot for me. Especially "Eternal Sleep" where they come out of the corner swinging but how good is this when it settles with flute. Vocals are reserved and join in quickly. Some wordless vocals and an excellent instrumental break. Check out the guitar before 4 minutes.

"Without A Past" is cool with that urgent rhythm with bass standing out. Nice uplifting chorus too. Wordless vocals on that second track as well. "Cosmical Mind" opens with distortion and energy with guitar leading the way as the vocals join in. I like the guitar solo starting around 4 minutes. More wordless vocals. I really like that Psychedelic chill to start "Lost" with that flute and laid back vocals."Why Am I" might be the proggiest but I'm not a big fan although I like the melancholy before 2 minutes with the guitar and flute. The closer is called "Forever Is A Long Time" and it's led by the guitar early and it's fairly heavy. A calm just before a minute as vocals join in and so begins our 10 1/2 minute journey.

So yes I'm a big fan of both of their albums and would highly recommend both.

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Studio Album, 1993
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Alpha Collection 1.
Attempt To Restore Krautrock

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

I first heard of Attempt to Restore in 1995 from some mail-order catalog that specialized in prog imports. I thought the Attempt to Restore CD sounded interesting, but I never bought it then seeing it seemed a bit difficult to make an order, and no one knew who they were. Years later I never forgotten then name and now I finally own the CD and glad I did.

The 1990s weren't exactly a golden age of Krautrock and certainly not in Germany, as many of these bands pretty seen their best and most innovative albums by the mid '70s and by 1974 many of them were either steering towards prog rock or electronic music. In the early '70s there was Tiger B. Smith that had more to do with hard rock had released two albums, one on Vertigo, the other on Bacillus. Long after Tiger B. Smith was a forgotten footnote, members reappeared in the 1990s as Attempt to Restore doing what they never did in the early '70s and create that type of Krautrock the likes of Guru Guru, Amon Duul II and Ash Ra Tempel did so well, and trying to bring it into the 1990s. And they do it pretty well. Like the Cosmic Jokers, this consists of totally improvised jams, with guitar and drums dominate, some sound effects like the sounds of cars being used, and keyboards, mostly non-intrusive digital synths, including a digital synth simulating the sound of an organ, rather than a real one. Whatever the case, had the Ohr label existed in 1993 they'd be right at home on that label. I seriously doubt ATR will give you anything new under the sun but worth it for those who fancy the idea of a 1990s recording hearkening to the glory days of Krautrock.

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Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1967
4.79 | 46 ratings

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Strawberry Fields Forever
The Beatles Proto-Prog

Review by Progressive Enjoyer

This is arguably the most creative pop single of the sixties. Despite not reaching number one - although Penny Lane reached number one in the states - , both Strawberry Fields, & Penny Lane continues to be some of the most well known, & influential songs of the Beatles.

Strawberry Fields Forever is a melancholic masterpiece, & for many (including myself) it's the finest work of the Beatles, with surreal lyrics of John reminiscing his childhood, with longing, & perhaps bittersweet undertones.

Penny Lane is also a great song - of course it can not live up to the masterpiece that is strawberry fields - but it still stands up as some of Paul's finest work. It's a fun, upbeat pop song (a change in pace from Strawberry Fields), & lyrically endearing, talking of a road in Liverpool, the city of which the Beatles originated.

There is one more aspect of these tracks I'd like to discuss. The promotional films. Compared to other music videos at the time, it's completely and utterly revolutionary. Instead of simply showing the band performing their song, it opts to show something completely different. Now despite the fact that this most definitely wasn't the first two song to do this, (an example off the top of my head for earlier videos is "Good Vibration"), it was undoubtedly the best two for it's time. It has everything form outstanding cinematography, to video quality that still holds up over fifty years later (despite it's muted colours, & being in 4:3 ). Strawberry fields opts for dark lighting, with the band showing little emotion, a stark contrast to the upbeat, light, & happy look of Penny Lane.

Overall, Strawberry Fields / Penny Lane is undoubtedly the Beatles finest, & one of their most influential singles.

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Studio Album, 2021
4.04 | 13 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

Four years have gone by since the Monarch last left a Trail in the world of Prog, slowly emerging from the pandemic lockdown, fully stretching its wings, and taking liberating flight once again. Funny how stressful situations can inspire some (not all) artists to go deeper, further, and farther than ever before in the Olympic struggle to stimulate their muse and come up with some quality art. I cannot help noticing that besides clean and sterile hands, the lockdown has given inspiration a whole new dimension, a lot of soul searching with little to no (outside) distraction that may induce complacency or routine.

Ken Baird has awoken from the long hiatus and has worked on a follow-up third Monarch Trail album, the previous two having been very well received in Progland. I am sure that the surrounding beauty of Dundas, Ontario is most influential in massaging the muse, as this third opus clearly deviates from the Neo-prog labelling, as it is deliberately more symphonic in scope and texture. Ken has elevated his piano playing to glorious heights, using this most classical of keyboard instruments to set the melodic foundation of this compositions. Yes, it is very much ivory centric, but his faithful crew still supply the needed dynamics on guitars, bass, and drums, in order to flesh out the arrangements. Hello Dino, Chris, Kelly and Steve!

The opening title track has a running time of nearly 11 minutes (a bit beyond the neo time frame), setting the tone right from the opening notes, no holds barred. The piece just blooms brightly, led by that limpid and vivacious piano, picking up pace and delivering some lovely performances (Dino' s reptilian bass especially) along the way. Ken's vocal differs from the norm, strangely fragile and pained, as per the sorrowful lyrical foresight of the pandemic era but Ken informs me of the following: . "For sure, people will interpret it any way they want no matter what I say and of course that's kind of the whole point with songs, but I also like to say what happened, that it was all done just before covid. I mean JUST before too, I finished the lyrics and vocals off in Jan/Feb of 2020 and then covid hit in March. It was kind of weird!"

Two 6-minute pieces are up next, a more guitar dominated orientation as Kelly Kereliuk's axe sets the mood, with swerving motifs of varying contrasts, whistling synths and complex twists and turns. The lyrics hint at the 'condition' : " Trials of our lives , Laughing up our woes Sounds far away Of Engines and horns, Echo will still remain if we try And keep us still here if only time could be alive" Nice? "Canyon Song" is a plaintive lament at the start, offering an almost Genisisian feel, with Ken' brittle vocals until Kelly lets the guitar rip. After the fury, the serenity of a sweeping solitary and extended synth line, with partners bass and drums in tow, keeps the intensity palpable and dramatic.

Another 2 epic tracks follow, as the powerful mellotron introduces the forlorn "Waves of Sound" as well as tossing in a few French lyrics into the mix (real Canadian, eh?), a brooding melancholia that takes its sweet time in developing, blossoming slowly into a long carpet of moods and echoes, the piano solo rising over the mellotron waves is a thing of utter splendour. Very tasty indeed.

"Megalopolitana" is not only the leviathan piece here clocking in just over 15 minutes, but also the signature piece from this release, as it clearly hits all the pleasure nodes. Opening jazzy notes, breezy voices that evolve into a rather elongated foray into all kinds of areas of sonic delight, highlighted by a lovely parping and bombastic synth motif, straight out of the Tony Banks school of how to play a lead synthesizer, using emotion, grandeur, atmosphere, and passion. Kelly goes on an extended guitar rant of the finest vintage, expressively insistent yet highly expressive. Throw in a vocal section, a tremendous acoustic guitar showcase from Steve Cochrane and a final moody flourish, voila! This could have been a fine Anthony Phillips style epic! Easily one of Ken's finest compositions!

A sweet 6 minute + finale puts this one to bed, "All Kinds of Futures" (please notice the double plural) and seals the deal for me, as the liquid piano glides majestically across from one speaker to another, a faultless instrumental that also features French Horn, and Penny Whistle, loads of 'tron, bass, guitar and drums. Love it!

So very happy to see you back on the grid, easily one of the finest Canadian prog artists around. I urge you all to take the Monarch Trail, and if you stay in small groups, you won't even need a mask!

4.5 shrivelled behinds (not what you think , you lewd people)

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Studio Album, 1994
2.91 | 182 ratings

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Suits
Fish Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

Fish's Suits album had a long germination, with some songs having seen live airings as far back as 1992 when he undertook his "Toile Tour" of small venues to workshop the material. The Songs From the Mirror and the headaches of his exit from Polydor intervened, but he would finally be able to record the final version of the album in late 1993 and early 1994, by which point the backing musicians (by and large the same team who had made Songs From the Mirror) were used to playing with each other and had spent extensive time on the road testing out much of this material.

The end result is an album which, in retrospect, I think has been sold short over the years. Are these Fish's best songs? Probably not - the songwriting on, say, his following album (Sunsets On Empire) would be better and structurally speaking many of these songs seem a bit loose and could do with tightening up. What you have here are some very well-performed and impeccably-produced renditions of B-grade songs, and it's the standard of performance which really helps buoy up the material and makes the material come across stronger than it otherwise should.

Stylistically, Suits is where you can find the seeds of the approach which Fish would later take on Sunsets On Empire - Pipeline, for example, could have been taken from that album quite happily - nestling alongside the remnants of the rather gentle, laid-back art-pop approach that Songs From the Mirror took. Neo-prog purists may struggle with it, but if you approach it as a mixture of art pop with a neo-prog mindset (shot through with moments of neo-prog with an art pop mindset), you might be better placed to appreciate it.

The folk flavourings that had worked into Fish's sound on Internal Exile are joined by some world music influences here. Whilst comparing Fish to Peter Gabriel is a bit samey, a glib parallel people have been eager to draw ever since they decided that Marillion was a Genesis clone band on the basis of the climactic section of Grendel, here the parallel is apt: this really feels like an album which takes Gabriel's So as one of its stylistic touchstones, at least on the quieter and more mellow tracks. In rockier, rowdier moments, it feels like Fish's neo-prog instincts are resurgent again, more than they perhaps have ever been over his entire solo career from Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors to this.

Some influences from current musical styles also enrich the stew; for instance, there's a somewhat trip-hop air at points, such as on Black Canal, a rather great song which was kept off non-CD editions of the album but really finds Fish engaging with a more modern sound whilst making it feel not like a break from his past styles but a further evolution of them.

On the whole, Suits might not be a mindblowing album, but it's far from clumsy, and what it lacks in tight songwriting it makes up for in atmosphere and heart. Though Fish wouldn't produce the first bona fide five-star classic of his solo career until the following Sunsets On Empire, on here he would undeniably chart the course that led there.

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Studio Album, 2020
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Strung
Aidan Baker Progressive Electronic

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
Hooked

Aidan Baker-Strung (2020) An interesting album, where guitar is the main character, counterpointing follows. Chaotic in someplaces and yet fluid. Experimental that is key, no fear in it! Some cellos add mystery but everything falls into place. Strings are all out there, few riffs and well constructed, it�s scope is variable, nothing else. Ambiental electronics all way through. No masterpiece but enjoyable. Somewhat Laraaji in many ways, but still the feeling of Aidan Baker. Short timed compositions which are rich , but somehow could have been more to explore in them, as told a good album. Give it a listening, Aidan Baker�s music is worthwhile.

***3 PA�s stars.

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Studio Album, 2021
3.04 | 4 ratings

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Exitivm
Pestilence Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

"Exitivm" is the 9th full-length studio album by Dutch death metal act Pestilence. The album was released through Agonia Records in June 2021. It�s the successor to "Hadeon" from 2018 and it features an almost completely different lineup to the lineup who recorded the predecessor. The only remaining member, who also performed on "Hadeon (2018)" is lead vocalist/guitarist Patrick Mameli.

Stylistically the music is technical/progressive death metal and as such a continuation of the sound the band have had on the last couple of album. It�s a bit more direct and aggressive maybe, but other than that the listener is treated to the usual death/thrashy riffs (often dissonant), powerful driving drumming (maybe a bit too much use of the double bass drums), blistering jazz/fusion influenced guitar solos, atmospheric keyboards, and the snarling semi-growling vocals of lead vocalist/guitarist Patrick Mameli in front. There�s no mistaking that it�s Pestilence you�re listening to. Pestilence incorporate recognisable elements from both "Testimony of the Ancients (1991)" and "Spheres (1993)" (the band�s third and fourth full-length studio albums), but have wisely chosen to twist those elements and make them part of the 2021 sound of Pestilence to not become a retrospective clone of themselves.

The songwriting is relatively strong throughout "Exitivm", although some ideas and riff styles are maybe used a bit too much. The almost constant use of dissonance can also be distracting and sometimes I just wish they would play more "straight" power chords and notes and leave out some of the dissonance. "Exitivm" features a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, which suits the music well, and upon conclusion "Exitivm" is a high quality release by Pestilence. As you may have guessed from the above, it�s not a perfect relase to my ears, but praise has to go out to Pestilence for continuing to have a distinct musical style. A few more memorable hooks would have made the album even stronger though. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

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Studio Album, 1971
4.28 | 1622 ratings

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Acquiring the Taste
Hammer, Fretz Revere R-GF Goldsmithing/Cross Peen Eclectic Prog

Review by Lupton

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A Gentle Giant leap forward....

First thing first- the cover art to "Acquiring the Taste "is far and away the most TASTEless cover ever to grace a Gentle Giant LP. it's really a peach not a....OK we all get it -tee hee.

As for the music, this album represents a huge progression from the eponymous debut.Relatively straight forward rock, blues and folk is replaced here with rampant experimentation which informs the overall sound of this album. When it works the music is just fantastic-when it does not it can all be a little dare I say it grating.

The opening track "Pantagruel's Nativity" is just superb-melodic, complex and engaging.I particularly like Gary Green's fluent guitar breaks.One of the best songs they ever recorded.'The Edge Of Twilight: is quite haunting and very eerie. "The House,The Street, The Room" starts off really well with a big fat driving riff but the ending of the song which is disjointed and incoherent - possibly an early attempt at interlocking instrumentation- something that they excelled on with later albums. Here it just seems clumsy and frankly a little irritating.The actual title track despite this album's MO is ironically quite a playfully accessible all too brief tune sounding Medieval without actually being Medieval. "Wreck" is a a sea shanty-like song with a great loping riff but leavened by some more medieval -like recorder led instrumentations."The Moon is Down" is another atmospheric song with a particularly engaging instrumental break."Black Cat" starts as a deceptively complex song with the madrigal like singing- something that the band would continue to explore on later albums before reaching its full development with "On Reflection" on the Free Hand LP.The instrumental break which starts at the one and a half minute mark is all over the place though- overtly complex and frankly just a bit too clever for the point of being clever, although the crazy noodling eventually resolve itself back to the original more straightforward main riff.The closing track, "Plain Truth" is actually a fairly straight forward rocker and would not be out of place on their debut.

Overall, this is an excellent album but one which requires repeated listening to fully appreciate.

4 stars

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Studio Album, 2003
3.68 | 69 ratings

BUY
Kalevala - A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic
Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) Various Genres

Review by prog_traveller!!

The "Kalevala" is the Finnish national epic, a legend of gods and heroes comparable to the Nibelungen Lied, the Edda or the Iliad. The "Kalevala", compiled by a researcher named Elias L�nnet between 1831 and 1835, is the most important contribution to the foundation of the identity of the Finns as a cultured people.

In Finland there is an association, the Finnish Society for Progressive Rock, which publishes a quarterly magazine under the name "Colossus". In addition, they want to make international progressive rock known in Finland and, conversely, Finnish progressive rock all over the world. In addition, these Finns always start unusual projects, one of them is Kalevala - A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic.

And this is really about a project of epic proportions: The people of "Colossus" have divided the verses of the Kalevala poetry into 30 sections. And then looked for 30 groups that should set them to music. In order to preserve the old- fashioned paintwork according to the theme, there were various framework conditions: Only analog keyboard instruments (such as Moog, Hammond, Clavinet, Rhodes etc.) or at least good emulations of them may be used.

Supported by MUSEA, these 30 groups and performers actually found themselves, astonishingly all over Europe (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, France, Great Britain and especially Italy) and even the USA. Various well-known names appear, such as Simon Says, Sinkadus, Moongarden, their offshoots Submarine Silence, Magenta, Metaphor, Grand Stand ... etc. or even groups that have resurfaced from oblivion, such as Museo Rosenbach or Clearlight.

With that the musical line is of course clear: there is predominantly indulgent retro prog for the ears. Expansive keyboard orgies meet melodic guitars and everything really sounds like straight out of the 70s. A noticeably large number of bands complement this world of sound with all sorts of classical string instruments such as the violin and cello. In addition, many others shine with virtuoso flute tones.

There are consistently top performances in the aforementioned musical environment. It almost seems as if every group, every performer saved their best for this album. So you can experience one moving moment after the other. Many contributions also reach the length of mini epics, so that the songs can go through a real development. In addition to many songs sung, there are also some instrumental pieces. Most of the singing is in English, but now and then (and these are often the more moving moments) in the local language of the artists. Although the running times of the CDs have been completely exhausted (CD 1 runs over 82 minutes!), There are hardly any lengths or weak contributions, this is almost unbelievable ... but just true.

Above all, the first CD is so consistent and closed that you would immediately believe that this is a concept album by a band. Obviously, the inspiration from the "Kalevala" was so unifying that all contributions seem like one piece. CD 1 also has the most 'authentic' atmosphere. On the second CD there are a couple of excursions that are clearly close to the NeoProg. But here, too, there are actually no failures.

It is quite difficult to highlight individual contributions as particularly successful due to the mass of great material, but the prelude by the unknown Finns Haikara literally blows you away. In addition, Simon Says, Sinkadus, Magenta, Orchard , Leviathan, Thonk, Cafe�ne deliver really impressive performances. And anyone who thought that old masters like Museo Rosenbach could no longer get things done, will be taught better.

Friends of well-made and high-quality retro progs shouldn't hesitate and buy. There are many discoveries with almost 240 minutes of beautiful music. In addition to all of mentioned above, this project is really important and it really is a milestone in prog world because lot of great bands emerged after this came out and gave prog rock new resurrection that it deserves.

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