A man who needs very little introduction: Steven Wilson, widely considered to be the flagbearer of 21st century progressive rock, has just released his fifth solo LP, To the Bone. Alongside its announcement earlier this year, Wilson stated that he would be departing from his usual brooding prog rock aesthetic in favour of more straightforward pop rock. As you may well imagine, this caused quite the stir amongst his followers.
Following 2015’s emotive Hand. Cannot. Erase., and the instrumental excellence of the 2016 EP, 4½, the singles released from To the Bone showed a big shift in Wilson‘s sound and songwriting. But is To the Bone on the same calibre of quality as his other albums? Can he still be considered the frontrunner of modern progressive rock?
Join Cerpin, Leth, Sacul, Frog and guest writer SirPent as they scrutinize To the Bone – the biggest, and potentially the most controversial, prog release of 2017. Will they commend or condemn Wilson‘s evolvement? There’s only one way to find out, it’s time for another Roundabout!
We’d like to remind you that our Roundabout reviews are compilations of each Prog Talk admin’s subjective opinions established after multiple listens of an album. While we may have expressed our thoughts on the album beforehand, we do not collude while writing our reviews. So without further ado, let’s talk Steven Wilson:
There’s a reason why very few people look back fondly on Yes‘ 90’s period.
As I have a few hours to kill on a flight, I’ve taken it upon myself to drudge through the post-Drama depression so you don’t have to – I’m a modern day saint, I know, you’re welcome. You may think I revel in tearing albums apart, but I honestly approached Yes‘ seventeenth album, Open Your Eyes, with a glimpse of optimism and thought to myself: “It can’t be as bad as everyone says it is. It can’t be as bad as Heaven & Earth”.
I was wrong.
Independent Bandcamp artists – they can be quite the unassuming species, can’t they? Amongst the layers of aspiring lo-fi bedroom artists; waves of opportunists jumping on the vaporwave memewagon and a scattering of experimental oddities, there is gold to be panned.
Vancouver-based artist Glaswegians is one of those rarities, with 2017’s Severance being better than an underground independent release has any right to be. Severance is 65 minutes of progressive, folk and post-rock excellence that puts most professional artists’ work from this year to shame.
Five years after near complete radio silence, Tetrafusion are back.
Their last release, the crowdfunded 2012 EP Horizons, caught some attention in the progressive world, but progressive metal group Tetrafusion were somewhat eclipsed by the rising popularity of instrumental prog metal group Scale the Summit, of which Tetrafusion’s bassist Mark Michell and drummer J.C. Bryant were a part of. After a messy affair in late 2016, Scale the Summit was left with only Chris Letchford at the helm – but we’re not going to be opening that can of worms today. What’s important is that Tetrafusion released their 3rd full length album, Dreaming of Sleep, back in April this year, an album which was anticipated by Prog Talk admins, Frog and Cerpin.
And so Frog and Cerpin take to the Roundabout once more to muse over Dreaming of Sleep – but do they reach the same conclusions about the album?
We’d like to remind you lovely people that our Roundabouts are compilations of each Prog Talk admin’s individual and subjective opinions. We do not collude whilst writing our reviews, though some admins hold their tongues better than others. So without further ado let’s talk prog!
All the way back in 2012, Alt-J, aka ∆, created an awesome wave with their debut album and put Leeds on the map of relevant patrician music – and no, Kaiser Chiefs are not patrician nor relevant. Alt-J’s successful blend of electronica, indie, folk and art pop led to An Awesome Wave winning the 2012 Mercury Prize and their sophomore album, This Is All Yours, hitting #1 on the UK Albums Chart. Calling them ‘prog’ might be a stretch, but the band’s artistic flair and proficiency in the unlikely genre of ‘folktronica’ are certainly interesting enough to make Alt-J stand out in the world of popular music.
But what of their latest record? Leth and Cerpin take Relaxer for a special ‘Beyond the Wall’ trip on our Roundabout – but do they reach the same conclusions about the album?
As ever, we’d like to remind you that our Roundabouts are compilations of each Prog Talk admin’s individual and subjective opinions. While we may or may not have expressed our thoughts on the album in private beforehand, we do not collude whilst writing our reviews. So without further ado let’s talk… indie pop?
The pedestal is a potentially dangerous object, sometimes even metaphorically – though it really depends on how hard you can throw it.
Australian progressive rock band Anubis have been sitting quite comfortably on my pedestal for quite some time. Their previous albums, 230503, A Tower of Silence, and Hitchhiking to Byzantium remain some of my favourite albums, and those of you who have read my review of the latter may even accuse me of, dare I say, ‘fanaticism’? However after first hearing their fourth studio album, The Second Hand, I began to second guess myself and my expectations of the band – am I right to expect an artist’s latest work to be the same as their others? Am I right to even have expectations? What this record shows, both as a part of Anubis’ discography and through its politically-charged concept, is that to err is human. Though some may see it to be a misstep in an excellent discography, The Second Hand is an admirable effort, where Anubis’ shift in musical style and approach to concept albums present some of the band’s best and worst newfound qualities.
You may (or may not) have noticed that things have ground to a halt here at Prog Talk. Now I can’t speak for every admin, but a deadly cocktail of all-consuming academia, a dab of stress and a deviating taste away from prog has left Prog Talk untouched for some time and Cerpin throwing up over the side of the settee. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Dare I say that prog just doesn’t interest us anymore? No, that’s not quite right – there are still a number of progressive rock albums from 2017 that have duly impressed me, but there’s been a lot more that haven’t. However, it’s prog’s sister-genres: avant-garde, experimental, and jazz fusion that have really piqued my interest so far – so you have some catching up to do, prog.
As we’ve just entered the second third of 2017, I thought it would be fitting to give a brief roundup on my highlights of the year up until now, and a shout-out to future albums that we may expect to be just as excellent. Remember: This is just my opinion, I do not speak for the rest of the team at Prog Talk.
Concept driven ‘classic’ progressive rock has had a bit of a bad run recently – well, for this cynic at least, anyway. Neal Morse’s album and Dream Theater’s He-Whomst-Must-Not-Be-Named have left a sour taste in the mouths of many, especially for the latter’s hollow and copious ballads. Imagine my surprise when Azure.’s debut album comes and flaunts classic prog worship; 19-minute conceptual narratives and power ballads like they’re going out of fashion. With Wish For Spring, Azure. has breathed new life into the seemingly doomed prog stereotype with daring vocals, exciting song concepts and a pinch of sex appeal that makes for one of the strongest prog records from this year so far.
Have you, a friend or a loved one ever wanted to get into The Mars Volta, but didn’t know where to start? Fear not, for help is at hand – our latest installment of our ‘A Beginner’s Guide To’ series features another flowchart as a guide in how to first experience the experimental rock group and a few associated acts.
This is the concluding part to my Best Albums of 2016 list; you can read Part I (#10 – #6) here
Again, this list is to celebrate the most fantastic albums from 2016, and I highly urge you to check them out if you haven’t done so already – you may end up loving these as much as I do!
#5 – Vektor – Terminal Redux (Thrash Metal / Progressive Metal)
Thrash metal isn’t exactly a prosperous genre nowadays; whilst ‘The Big Four’ are still alive and kicking (albeit frailly), their latest efforts have fallen short of their former glory. At least that’s the general consensus, but I’ve never been a thrash fan to begin with and I never thought any album could turn me round.
Cue Terminal Redux, and the explosive intro to ‘Charging the Void’; painting the cosmic canvas of an album that’s set to hyper speed from the word ‘go’. Vektor’s third album is a seamless trail of memorable, heavy riffs for well over 70 minutes of constant high energy; even the relatively gentle closers, ‘Collapse’ and ‘Recharging the Void’, ooze with gravity with the gravelly choruses or wailing female vocals. Like Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas’ Mariner, Terminal Redux is the soundtrack to an immense space-faring journey; one a little more exciting than No Man’s Sky (though the soundtrack for that is superb, too).
I’d wish for an extra pair of arms just so I could simultaneously play air guitar and air drums along to all of Terminal Redux; it’s grossly enjoyable and, dare I say, fun? Even the guitar tapping solo in ‘LCD [Liquid Crystal Disease]’ sounds like spaceship lasers flying across the galaxy. It’s a shame that most of Vektor left the band towards the end of 2016, but frontman David DiSanto is confident that Vektor will continue going on strong; and given how sound Vektor’s track record is, I have no doubt about that.