“Come with me now; be joyful. It is time to enter The Electric Castle!”
After the wild success of the Ayreon Universe shows in 2017, where an audience of international Ayreonauts was treated to a best-of selection of Ayreon’s most popular songs, the Poppodium 013 once again opened its gates to the gentle hordes in September of 2019. 2018 had seen the twenty-year anniversary and the re-mixed and -mastered version of Into The Electric Castle, and thus it was a logical step that this new live show centered around that album, a favourite of many. To the great thrill of not only the fans but the artists as well, Arjen managed to gather most of the cast members of the original album, and the most admirable substitutes for those who couldn’t make it. Continue reading →
No, I have no idea what a Ramagehead is either, but this quixotic and enigmatic title seems entirely apposite for a third album of psychedelic Progressive Rock from this most discerning and intriguing of collectives. Combining the talents of Porcupine Tree’s bass general Colin Edwin and King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, this already sounds like a Fantasy Prog Band competition winner. Add in some vocals of an Obake vintage and you’re there. This could end up being the most intimidating and contrived ego-trip were it not handled carefully.
Finnish Prog Rock merchants Superfjord have the kind of name that should cement immediate status as cult legends. Somewhat marvelously, they also sound as if the last forty-five years have never happened. The powerful resonance of the music they produce has, incredibly, seen the band embraced by BBC Music, and second album All Will Be Golden (Svart) could leave the average rocker wondering if this is finally an avenue into awards that have previously excluded our genres.Continue reading →
To say that Brighton’s King Goat set themselves a high bar with début album Conduit (self-released) is like saying that Donald Trump is a wee bit controversial. To merely label them a Doom band is, similarly, doing the quintet a severe disservice: that début was laced with emotional vocals, choirs overlaying evocative bridges, and light, textured instrumentalism. It was a tour de force precious few expected.Continue reading →
As one half and the musical engine room of one of contemporary Prog’s most beloved groups Iamthemorning, Gleb Kolyadin is one of progressive rock’s hidden gems and undeniably one of its greatest pure musical talents; a virtuoso pianist and a proven composer with Iamthemorning, whose brand of chamber music and progressive rock has gained not only critical and fan acclaim, but earned Gleb plaudits for his talent from peers such as Daniel Cavanagh and Steve Hogarth. Further cementing that reputation, this solo effort (Kscope) further shows off his compositional and playing talents, all in a manner that surprisingly branches out from his main act.Continue reading →
Heavy music. We don’t just love it, we breathe and live it. And we want you to drink in every album that made the list of our favourite albums of 2016. Heading to the business end, to find out even more of the very best of the very best of this years’ heavy music, read on…Continue reading →
If the Nobel Prize judging committee are to be believed then we should start thinking about music as literature. The awarding of the 2016 literature prize to Bob Dylan may have had as much to do with attempting to appear “relevant” and garnering headlines as it did about celebrating the musical and lyrical genius of the American songwriter. Whilst this, in time, will be regarded as the last truly great hurrah of the Baby Boomer generation, the award, at the very least, asked you to start thinking about his music through a very different lens.Continue reading →
After the glorious weather of the Saturday, Sunday at Ramblin’ Man greets us with rain. Lots and lots of rain and some dampened (chortle chortle) moods. As a result the arena certainly seems noticeably emptier than yesterday; but alas, duty calls. Even Sweden’s Blues Pills and their brand of psychedelic, 60s rock can’t perturb the downpour. Despite their suiting to sunnier climes however they go down a storm (!), as Elin Larsson showcases her massive, Janis Joplin-esque voice.
Despite the grim weather, Icelandic rockers Solstifir have a sizable turnout. Their presence on the main stage and the warm welcome they receive is incredibly gratifying. In spite of their short set, their performances of what has become their signature song, ‘Otta’ will hopefully elevate them further into the rock arena. Which, judging by today’s performance, they will most definitely deserve.
The rain proves a problem for the Prog Stage particularly as its shallow shelter fails to protect equipment (and band members) from the downpour. For Knifeworld sound problems would prove very detrimental as many of their instruments (and backing vocals) seemingly fail to come out of the PA at all. Kavus Torabi’s drawling, quirky vocals are always clear, but their complex and diverse structures are damaged severely, such as on ‘Send Him Seaworthy’ where its prominent Bassoon sections sounded completely nonexistent.
The Blues Tent enjoys a significant audience for the day, bolstered by those seeking shelter from the rain; as a result catching Aaron Keylock proves impossible, but from the outside he sounds on fine form. Over at the Prog Stage, The Pineapple Thief play a triumphant set which balances between their more delicate songs such as ‘Magnolia’ and their rockier kin of the likes of ‘Alone At Sea’ with great fluidity, showing their dexterity and understated diversity, proving a highlight of the entire weekend.
There’s a lot of love for Polish lads Riverside, and with good reason. Since the release of Shrine of New Generation Slaves (InsideOut) they have worked their way into the hearts of countless devotees. Their set today is nothing less than triumphant, seemingly able to bring the sunshine despite the clouds, lifting the spirits and smiles of the now rather soggy crowd. Their delight at the live setting is obvious, playing with gusto and passion compositions such as ‘Hyperactive’, ‘O2 Panic Room’ and ending with an immaculate rendition of ‘We Got Used To This’. This has to be one of the performances of the weekend.
Finally the rain eases and the sun shines through, creating a beautiful and apt scene for Alcest and their melancholic but gorgeous shoe-gazing take on prog. Despite his very reserved, even shy nature, Niege grows each time into his role as the band’s centerpiece, talking at greater lengths and showing genuine appreciation to the crowd. Mixing their earlier black metal orientated songs with the latter, softer elements, their set is one of pure majesty and hypnotic beauty that completely draws everyone in. Closing with a mesmerizing “Deliverance”, the band gradually leave the stage, finally with Niege as he turns, humbled by the rapturous response.
Possibly one of the most anticipated performances from the weekend comes from Seasick Steve. He arrives on stage dressed in garb that you wouldn’t find out of place on a lumberjack, and unassuming persona makes him even more endearing to the huge crowd in front of him. He regales tales of the origins of his many handmade instruments to the amused crowd, who are seemingly baffled that he can produce such music from such rickety creations. Songs like ‘Thunderbird’ and ‘Walkin’ Man’ transform the ordinary to the extraordinary.
Very few people are as iconic and instrumental in the world of Prog rock as Ian Anderson, and, while his legacy needs not reiterating, today his performance is certainly enjoyable but far from perfect. Brimming with an ever present enthusiasm and his quirky sense of humour and personality, Anderson is a joyous presence with sadly but expectedly some signs of wear and tear setting in. What really detracts however is the ill fitting, over the top style of guitarist Florian Ophale which doesn’t seem to make sense. Given a spot to show off, Ophale certainly has skill but his virtuoso performance does not match to the rest of the set at all, as if a last minute addition. Songs like ‘Agualung’ are simply timeless and can never fail, but the presence of Ophale leaves too sour a taste.
Marillion are one of those bands that seem to have always been there. It would be difficult to imagine the progressive rock scene without them, as they are the reason why many in the crowd are here today. Opening with the fifteen minute marvel that is ‘Gaza’, Steve Hogarth and co prove their longevity. Their set is filled with relatively new tomes, the post pre-1995 entry being ‘Sugar Mice’ but to the delight of the crowd. Steve Hogarth’s stage-based eccentricities and his unique vocal style (apparently unaffected by time) are on top form. Much of the set comes from their latest release, ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’, arguably their best yet. The crowd sings ‘Power’ as though it was their last breath, and as they close all too soon with ‘The Invisible Man’; it is clear that Marillion reach stretches beyond the progressive world.
Backed by the storming rhythm section of Nick Beggs on bass and Craig Blundell on drums, the album also sees guest appearances from Peter Cox (Go West), Nik Kershaw, Steve Hogarth (Marillion), Heather Findlay, Kim Seviour (Touchstone), Jem Godfrey (Frost*) as well as narration provided by British actor Lee Ingleby (Master & Commander, Harry Potter).
1. Airlock 2. God Vs. Man 3. The Boy In The Radio 4. Why Do We Stay? 5. Lonely Robot 6. A Godless Sea 7. Oubliette 8. Construct/Obstruct 9. Are We Copies? 10. Humans Being 11. The Red Balloon
Well now, here’s a bit of a surprise. The last time that I spent a significant time with Swedish progressive outfit Beardfish was with their charming and almost too nice for its own good album, the cheery Mammoth (InsideOut). Beardfish are one of those bands that you can quite easily let slip under your own personal radar, such is their charm and inoffensiveness. That probably sounds like damning with faint praise and I don’t mean that – really, I don’t – but it is certainly the case that you can end up overlooking this most idiosyncratic of bands. Well I did, anyway. My bad.
Well, let’s raise a glass to being wrong. The latest album from the band, the quixotic +4626Comfortzone (InsideOut) is the most interesting and most direct of the band’s releases to date and will have you racking your brains over how you could have ever doubted them, or your own judgement, about what a superlative and hugely inventive progressive band Beardfish are.
As with many progressive artists, Beardfish are unafraid to build diverse and diverting song structures. So far, so very rudimentary but what impresses most on +4626 is not the diversity of the music which covers some very notable and comfortable territory that fans of Yes or Genesis or Marillion would find very welcome. To these ears it’s the intelligent lyricism melded to the musicality that truly impresses. +4626 is an angry record, not that you would guess from your initial listens. Beneath the lovely harmonies and melodious interludes there’s a black self-deprecating humour that pokes right into the heart of small town small mindedness (most notably on the languorous and immersive title track) and a reflective but caustic poke in the eye to the narrow minded attitudes that can infect some of the most tribal of music fans (the jaunty ‘Ode to the Rock n’ Roller’).
The musical, lyrical and emotional heart of this album can be found mid-way through. The fifteen minute plus of ‘If We Must Be Apart’ is where everything comes together. Ostensibly a tale of a broken relationship, what you are actually treated to is an extraordinary psychological journey set to music. It ebbs and flows, builds and drops. It even has a bit of Beelzebub thrown in for good measure. It’s epic and exhausting but in a very satisfactory way.
Comfortzone is a record that fits into that classic mould of revealing more and more with each listen. At one level you could be cynical and accuse the band of covering all their bases, hoping some of their ideas stick. I can’t share that view. Comfortzone is, at its heart, an ambitious and optimistic record and, whilst they (quite rightly) rail against small mindedness, outdated attitudes and misogyny, this is not a downbeat affair. On the contrary, Beardfish leave you feeling optimistic, elated and happy that they are back in your life. This is a handsome, intelligent and beguiling album: hats, off, gentlemen, hats off.