Nova Collective – The Further Side

Nova Collective offer quite a dream meeting of minds in the world of Prog, and have been a hugely anticipated entity since their inception reveal a couple of years ago. Helmed by Between The Buried & Me bassist Dan Briggs and Haken guitarist Richard Henshall, the instrumental project was formed out of Briggs’ admiration for Haken’s then creative apex The Mountain (InsideOut), which (long story short), culminated in the sharing of musical ideas between the two and an eventual collaboration.  Continue reading

On The Road… with Devin Townsend Project And Between The Buried And Me

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We have a philosophy at this website that goes something like this” few bands ever have managed to keep the highest level or artistry, yet still have commercial success.” As we have been tracking here at Ghost Cult, appreciation for progressive music is at an all-time high in 2016. Usually this type of thing doesn’t bode well for quality, but this era of bands is a different animal. It is a boon to fans to have so many strong, legendary figures continuing to be great and tremendous younger bands across all the sub-genres with bright futures. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the second leg of the Devin Townsend Project, Between The Buried And Me, and Fallujah tour.  Continue reading

Caligula’s Horse – Bloom

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In recent years Australia has given a burgeoning and genuinely exciting scene of metal, particularly those of a progressive nature. From the likes of Karnivool to recent genre alchemists Ne Obliviscaris, such bands are not only making waves on the wider radar but are doing so with inventive, compelling and brilliant flavor. Similarly Brisbane originated Caligula’s Horse have made a mark, with two well received albums, a characterised brand of emotive progressive metal and the eventual signing to prog label titans InsideOut. Not too shabby really.

Latest album Bloom (InsideOut) begins on almost misleading terms, as the title track begins with a lengthy, acoustic passage accompanied by soft vocals before it gradually increases tempo and dynamic, in part reminiscent of Opeth, as it proves to build up towards the comparatively heavier ‘Marigold’. Throughout the album Caligula’s Horse strike that tricky balance between the heavy and lighter elements with aplomb melding the complexity of tech metal and some near djent-like moments with emotional resonance and accessibility. In fact, much like Agent Fresco, there is a great level of pop sensibilities and a weight of influences and styles, but doing so with a style and feel of their own.

At an approximate duration of 45 minutes, Bloom offers a rich diversity and layering but in a run time more manageable for the more novice listener. Catchy, poppier moments and recognisable influences with further draw people in, whilst rich textures and the fluid blend of complexity and aspects of serenity will keep the trained listener engaged for ages. A stunning effort from a band that are quickly proving to be one of the contemporary prog scene’s most promising torch bearers.

 

8.0/10

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

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Tim Bowness – Stupid Things That Mean The World

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There is a modest earnestness to much of Tim Bowness’ third solo album Stupid Things That Mean The World (InsideOut), as the singer-songwriter continues to explore the direction and timbre of his more recent works. Openly stating that Stupid Things… is a continuation of its’ predecessor, Abandoned Dancehall Dreams (InsideOut), Bowness confirms the premise that practice makes (near) perfect, with an eclectic and wistful selection of songs whose charm isn’t just in the pleasant ear candy they first appear to be, but in the reflection and layers that unfurl with repeated listens.

With a warm, friendly  production courtesy of The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord, who also adds moments of lilting guitar and acoustic quality much like he did to Katatonia’s Sanctitude (KScope), on the surface Bowness’ solo work is centred around building a song that sounds simple, often flowering out of an acoustic guitar and unpretentious vocal combination, expanding to contain several strata of multiple, and very appropriate, instrumentation, such as the delicate pedal guitar that enhances ‘Know That You Were Loved’, or the swelling strings and keys that dance in and out of several of the tracks.

Bowness conveys honest emotion and reflection in his words throughout, each line delivered with grace and feeling. He doesn’t push the vocals, staying in a comfortable mid-range, but allows the fine touches of the many players (a veritable who’s who of progressive rocks’ illuminati) to add colour to his ideas and push the dynamics of this most excellently and carefully arranged album, with standout song ‘Sing For Me’ the most well-crafted of songs, rising to a fulfilling and emotive conclusion.

While being far from a melancholy album, indeed the overall sense is one that uplifts, most songs display tinges of regret, sorrow and introspective. Yet where Strange Things… is at its best is in the more experimental songs; the burnt caramel to the honeyed touch of the dream pop surroundings. ‘Press Reset’ is dark rock, ‘The Great Teenage Electric Dream’ shows its temper and the title track is slinky pop, all which adds up to show Strange Things That Mean The World is a welcome addition to the canon of a man who is No-Man no more, but stands as a valued solo artist in his own right.

 

7.5/10

 

STEVE TOVEY

Next To None – A Light In The Dark

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Not many bands can say their début album has been produced by Prog icon Mike Portnoy, nor features a cameo from Neal Morse or a release deal with one of the major record labels in the modern Prog scene, InsideOut, especially when its members ages range from 16-17 years of age. Not so surprising however when one Max Portnoy resides on the drum stool, clearly bring some weight with it. Fortunately they also have a wealth of talent and songwriting prowess way beyond their years, as A Light In The Dark (InsideOut/Radiant) showcases.

The big elephant in the room it has to be said is how strikingly similar their music is to Dream Theater, of course the band where Portnoy senior made his name before the infamous split. Their take on progressive rock influenced metal seems to come from the same line of inspiration as the aforementioned stalwarts, sounding symmetrical in tone and formula with use of unusual samples and keyboard leads. Even vocalist Thomas Cuce sounds eerily like a younger James LaBrie with his soaring and powerful voice – on the ballad, ‘A Lonely Walk’ particularly the resemblance is uncanny – although he does also have harsh growls in his palette, which add an obvious enough distinction.

Where there may be some degree of idol worship at hand here, there is also a resulting level of well thought out and complex song structures, and beneath the surface some clear signs of their youth and their own identity. Album opener ‘The Edge Of Sanity’ uses a range of strange samples during one breakdown for example, including an elephant trumpeting and what sounds like a segment from the original Super Mario games. Elsewhere the likes of ‘Runaway’ offer signs of contemporary prog metal, if seen through the DT lens.

It also has to be acknowledged at just how talented they are individually. Yes the focus point for many may be the presence of Max Portnoy but throughout there are performances that grab your attention, in particularly the Cuce’s sporadic keys in ‘Control’, if his vocals are found wanting at times, both in identity and in strength.

It is a sad state of affairs; the fact that their sound all too closely resembles that of one of the genre’s premier acts, making the family ties with Mike Portnoy all the more too difficult to shake off their back. A Light In The Dark is an album that clearly displays a wealth of talent and surprising maturity, but little of its own recognizable stamp.

 

6.0/10

Next To None on Facebook

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

Next To None Releasing A Light in the Dark on July 10th

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Teen prodigy progressive metallers Next To None will be releasing their debut album A Light in the Dark on July 10, 2015 via InsideOut. Watch their EPK below.

Based in Pennsylvania, Next To None features Max Portnoy on drums, Ryland Holland on guitar, Kris Rank on bass, and Thomas Cuce on keyboards and lead vocals. The band have been honing their craft for several years, recording a self-released EP and playing various live gigs, including a slot at the Progressive Nation At Sea 2014 cruise. Later that year, the band went into the studio to record their debut album. At the ripe young ages of 15 and 16, they emerged with an album they and producer Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Flying Colors, ex-Dream Theater) are extremely proud of. A Light in the Dark also features guest appearances by Bumblefoot (Guns N Roses) and prog legend Neal Morse.

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A Light in the Dark tracklist:
01: The Edge Of Sanity
02: You Are Not Me
03: Runaway
04: A Lonely Walk
05: Control
06: Lost
07: Social Anxiety
08: Legacy
09: Blood On My Hands

CD-only bonus tracks:
10: Fortune Cookie
11: Deafening

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