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:
Back in 2015, Irish-based progressive rock band The Dystopian Project released their debut album, Death Leaves an Echo. I had mixed feelings about it… It was promising, but failed to grasp my interest and illuminate my imagination with a firm hand and a brilliant light. Two years later, almost day for day, Dublin’s quintet comes back with Paradigm, their sophomore album. Will they succeed or will this be their second strike?
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.
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.
Imagine this: a progressive rock band with 18 previous albums and almost three decades comprising of the same line up, making a politically fuelled album titled F*** Everyone And Run that’s initialized as FEAR. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? Surprisingly, Marillion avoid a potential blunder, and instead build on their strengths from their previous album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, and salvage classic prog from the rather embarrassing state of affairs its big names have been in this year. Continue reading
Watchtower might be the antithesis of a prolific band, with two albums and an EP in over twenty years, but they show they are still alive with Concepts of Math: Book One, a five-track EP serving as a foreplay to their upcoming full-length, Mathematics.
In the years between Control and Resistance and Concepts of Math: Book One, main guitarist Ron Jarzombek has gone through a lot: Spastic Ink, Gordian Knot, Blotted Science, Terrestrial Exiled, and a solo album, as well as many guest appearances. His works on twelve-tone serialism, most important in Blotted Science and Terrestrial Exiled, have clearly made a huge impact on his compositional style and overall sound. So much so that the new Watchtower doesn’t sound like it used to, but rather a new form of Ron’s serialist composition. Continue reading
It speaks volumes of a band when a musician’s side project surpasses it in quality. Such a case in the prog world is Transatlantic, which blew away The Flower Kings, Marillion and Dream Theater with their 2009 release The Whirlwind at a time where the parent bands weren’t faring all that too well. The same can be said of Levin Minnemann Rudess, well, at least a third of it – From the Law Offices Of is the trio’s second prog / jazz fusion showcase which flaunts the instrumental creativity and energy that many prog bands – namely Dream Theater – so sorely lack nowadays. Continue reading