Album Reviews

Issue 2013-072

Duo Review

Prog Sphere Productions

Progstravaganza 13
Progstravaganza 13
Country of Origin:Various
Record Label:Prog Sphere Promotions
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Samples:Click Here

Prog-Sphere is a website and boutique agency with the aim of supporting up-and-coming bands from around the world and getting them heard.

In just three years it has highlighted hundreds of new bands on a series of downloadable compilations under the banner of Progstravaganza. This is the thirteenth in the series featuring 76 bands from across the genre - and a little beyond.

The compilation itself is accompanied by the official Progstravaganza website where all the artists-participants have profiles plus interviews with the bands, as well as the reviews of their releases. Chris van der Linden has again provided design for the art cover and PDF booklet which contains bands photos and links, as well as the editor's note.

There is almost 10 hours of music on this compilation. Way too much for the usual DPRP in-depth review - and one track never really gives you a full flavour of a band.

However, the delight of Progstravaganza is that, such is the breadth of music contained within, there will always be a good handful of bands you'd want to check out. Thus the aim of this "review" is not to provide a detailed analysis of each track but a brief comment to signpost songs which may be worth investigating further.

To allow for "personal taste" a little, we've given two reviewers (Andy Read and André de Boer) the task of giving their view on each song. To make it more of a challenge - they have to do it in no more than a paragraph!

Where available we've also added a link to the band's most recent DPRP album review.

You can stream individual tracks of interest from the Progstravaganza website whilst you read through the comments. You can also download the entire "album" via Bandcamp in the usual different audio formats under the "pay what you want" method.

Happy reading and we hope you discover lots of new music...

Arabs in Aspic - You Are Blind (5:41)
[Strange Frame of Mind (2010)]

Andy Read (AR): Retro sounding - blues meets psychedelia with a bit of Prog. A singer with more soul would be better.
André de Boer (AdB): Interesting. Not complex, Attractive. PopRock.

The Aaron Clift Experiment - Arsonist Games (3:21)

AR: Mid-quality singer songwriter - okay.
AdB: Good choice to call it an Experiment. Sympathetic but not more.

Karcius - Water (8:16)
[The First Day (2012)]

AR: I like this too. Singer works for me with nice varity in composition. Heavy atmospheic prog.
AdB: This is VERY good stuff. Love it!

Omb - An Ordinary Caveman Sings Ode to Obsession (6:15)

AR: Starts off all Rocky Horror before the growls. I lasted 1min 13 seconds - not my thing at all.
AdB: Awful standard metal & growling. Delete.

Fughu - The Human Way (6:26)

AR: Really like this complex Prog metal/heavy Prog from Argentina. A heavy Kingcrow with a more metallic singer. Released 5 albums! Will seek more of this.
AdB: Uninteresting metallish. 13 in a dozen.

Ornithos - Invettiva Al Potere (Short Version) (3:13)

AR: Modern metal with a sax and a flute sung in Italian. Interesting combination. Needs stronger singer and melodies. Good live band?
AdB: Italian PunkProgRock with a huge vintage sauce! Lovely song.

Dialeto - Windmaster (6:26)
[The Last Tribe (2013)]

AR: Gentle generic instrumental from 3rd album. Nice acoustic guitar opening. Too soothing for me.
AdB: Beautiful instrumental. Bit too laid back.

El Trio - Descontectar (4:52)
[La Blanca Y La Gris (2009)]

AR: Indie rock from Santiago sung in Spanish. Odd time sigs and groove with bursts of ever-changing guitar. Little Prog, but enjoyable.
AdB: Lovely, lively, in Spanish. Like to hear more, although not 'prog'.

Telergy - Rumors (10:09)
[The Exodus (2011)]

AR: Bombastic symphonic metal with frenzied instrumental sections. Great musicians - where's the singer?
AdB: Ayreon-like. Sounds impressive and interesting but need to hear more.

Traffic Experiment - Once More (With Feeling) (6:32)

AR: Art rock three piece from U.K.. From debut album. Some nice details and vocals with some '60s Americana. Worth investigating.
AdB: Quiet, nicely composed song. Slowly builds up to the end. Really tempting.

Ysma - The Wanderer (5:12)
[Vagrant (2013)]

AR: From German band's debut album. Heavy riff-based instrumental which goes jazz funky halfway. A bit too two dimensional.
AdB: Mix of heavy, jazz and relaxed instrumental. Good stuff though not very original.

Corvus Stone - Cinema (6:00)

AR: Gentle, well-produced and played proggy cinematic instrumental
AdB: Instrumental little gem. Doesn't go by the name of Cinema for no reason!

SIOS - Halcyon Failure I: Where The Change Grows (3:50)

AR: Rather different sound to this heavy proggy band. Reminds me a bit of the UK's Jump. Worthy of further investigation.
AdB: Starts like straightforward heavy metal but turns out to be pretty progressive. Nice one!

Gekko Projekt - Avatar Jones (6:03)
[Electric Forest (2012)]

AR: High Prog quotient from this USA quintet. Catchy song. Reminds me of a more quirky Sean Filkins.
AdB: A somewhat middle of the road track. Not bad at all but not very special.

Space Mirrors - The Nameless City (6:45)

AR: Deep, half-spoken vocals and deep, grungy riffs. Neither Prog nor my sorta thing.
AdB: I will skip this one. No trace of prog with boring vocals.

Temple of the Smoke - Moth of Time (7:14)

AR: Appallingly produced and played instrumental became quite good with a lighter touch halfway through before returning to original focus. Yuk!
AdB: Very nice song, quiet with a little raw edge. Need to hear more!

Pyramidal - Sons of Light (6:14)

AR: Shoe-gaze student rock from the NME. Will have an audience, but not a Prog one.
AdB: Doesn't get me. A real demo track, trying styles.

Vy - Digital Hoarder (7:57)

AR: Clever Prog instrumental goes jazz funky halfway through. Ruined by hideous out-of-tune La-La-La-ing at the end
AdB: Instrumental mix of jazzy styles. Well performed.

Pike - Ned Land (11:32)

AR: Very slow doomy stoner rock. Singer can do the screamo but not the mellow. Riffing is too repetitive for 11mins.
AdB: No prog, hard to keep attention to this very long track. Kind off boring doom.

Torso - Inside (9:47)

AR: Retro bluesy stoner rock. Good for fans of The Doors but no Prog.
AdB: Another long track, almost 10 mins. Return of LA Woman if you like.

The Gabriel Construct - Sanctum (7:54)

AR: Love the first half of this song. After 3 mins it loses its way under distorted loops. Bit like listening to a headache.
AdB: This is no easy listening stuff. Very crafty, with lots of brass and copper but tiring to me. There will be lovers of this genre for sure, I know. Not me. Pffff!

Transport Aerian - Inspire (10:04)

AR: Minimalist Prog with hints of Wilson and Talk Talk. Needs much tighter songwriting and crisper production. Promising.
AdB: The opposite of the previous track. Lots of rest here. Impressive rest that appeals to me. I'd like to hear some more of this innovative and jazzy progressive band.

Machines Dream - Toronto Skyline (8:00)

AR: Well-executed, light melodic Prog for fans of Cannata, BJH and Camel.
AdB: Wow, an old skool progressive rock track. Great that new bands are still interested in composing these beautiful songs.

Spiralcove - Close My Eyes (4:53)

AR: 5 mins of listenable melodic hard rock in strict 4/4 time!
AdB: Thirteen in a dozen metal song.

HellHaven - About Reading and Writing (6:40)

AR: Light, modern NeoProg. This song needs restructuring and singer needs more control, but promising.
AdB: Nice prog track for a new band. Would like to hear one or two songs more.

Jordi Kuragari - What Are You Thinking (3:52)

AR: Slightly cheeky tone to this slightly retro proggy burst, doesn't work for me. Some may love it.
AdB: Jordi asks the right question. I am thinking he created a nice short interesting piece of prog art. Lovely. Go on, Jordi!

PHWG - Cavalry of Camels (5:03)

AR: Does what the song title suggests. Arabian-themed instrumental with violin to the fore.
AdB: Predictable Arabian-like eclectic track. Nice if mid album interlude, not for a whole album.

Eyevory - Requiem Aeternam (9:09)
[The True Bequest (2012)]

AR: Female-fronted, flute-featuring heavy Prog with metal tones. Clearly evolving their own sound from debut EP. Not sure about rap style vocals at start.
AdB: Eyevory has a setback with me, as I am hard to convince by a female fronted band. Only few do. This rapping lady, sounding a bit Nena, doesn't reach me. At all...

Midnight Moodswings - A Good Place (3:27)

AR: Elevator music! Going Down!
AdB: Luckily this is a short song, otherwise I'd be asleep. Don't know what this band aims for but can't think of any listeners.

100 Onces - Oh Me Gee (4:24)

AR: Band with oddball name playing an oddball instrumental
AdB: Metal instrumental. Except for yelling 'Oh Fuck!'. I guess this band couldn't be an opening act at ProgPower without a singer.

Axial Lead - Your Greatness To (4:55)

AR: For fans of multi-styled Prog twisting between heavy and light.
AdB: Nice mix of progressive styles by Axial Lead.

Le Reverie - Dark Symphony (4:37)

AR: Female fronted rock/metal. Lovely husky voice.
AdB: Ai, another female fronted approach. This one is different in a very positive way. I like the vocals matching the fine progressive metal music!

Scarlet Romeo - When Love is Fooling You (23:04)

AR: Tinkling piano and bluesy guitar solo opens 24-min ProgMetalish epic. Strained female vocals and stilted arrangements hamper my enjoyment.
AdB: Beautiful lengthy (24 mins!) romantic epic song.

Wilton Said - Half Life (9:50)

AR: Opens to great groove before getting lost in drudgery of mid-paced Prog Rock.
AdB: Uninteresting kind of Prog. Nothing new or good.

Karmamoi - Odd Trip (6:10)

AR: Has what last two tracks didn't. Strong female vocals amid crisp arrangements. Think Illumion meets Mostly Autumn.
AdB: Strong female fronted prog. It's not easy to combine a great easy going composition with a strong voice and musicianship. From the second album of this Italian band.

Thomas Glonkler - Spuren (7:23)

AR: Pleasant instrumental country walk – or an extended Big Big Train solo.
AdB: Instrumental, nice though hopefully not album wide.

Between the Planets - Flying Across the Stratosphere (4:24)

AR: Interesting, swirling electronic-fueled instrumental.
AdB: Another instrumental, yet very different from the previous one. No 'real' prog, full of beeps, sounds, quirks and jazzy noises. Nice for a one time listen and, if this is your style, I guess it is superb to listen all day long!

3rd Ear Experience - Pocket Full of Stars (13:05)

AR: A 13-minute slow guitar and slow keyboard solo.
AdB: A lengthy instrumental again. One for lovers of this minimalistic slow tempo jazzy kind of style.

Modest Midget - Rocky Valleys of Dawn (3:53)
[The Great Prophecy of a Small Man (2010)]

AR: The Shadows playing small-time Prog rock'n'roll.
AdB: This track is modest seventies poprock. Brings back memories but in no way progressive.

Armed Cloud - This Dream (5:50)

AR: Pretty standard indie rock with splashes of Prog. Nice melodies and guitar solo. Bit like The Aurora Project.
AdB: A Dutch band I will probably see live in a while. Not very special but enjoyable progressive rock with a thin line of metal riffing.

Liquid Casing - For a Memory Erased (10:01)

AR: A study in odd time signatures and repetitive rhythms - just doesn't flow nicely into my ears.
AdB: A long exercise in stretched composing. It erases my memory, doesn't stick.

Half Past Four - Rise (5:58)
[Good Things (2013)]

AR: Retro Prog with honest female vocals and lyrics - reminds me a bit of Curved Air.
AdB: Lovely mix of Old Skool prog and Queen.

A Secret River - A Place To Start (7:40)

AR: Always love a glockenspiel opening! Gentle, swaying mellowness. Horrible vocal harmonies. Pass.
AdB: Ultralight, slow and poppy. Didn't wait for the end.

AlithiA - Thirteen (8:41)

AR: Enjoyed this! Melodic electronic rock. Bit '80s. Well produced. Good guitar.
AdB: This sounds really awesome, not pretentious but catching rock, love it.

Montenegro - Soluciones (6:40)

AR: New theme for the Balkan Pink Panther?
AdB: Greek-like guitar. Very simple, no prog here.

Rhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost - Wooden Heart (3:29)
[Trio (2013)]

AR: Been positively reviewed on DPRP. Inventive Alt Prog with brass section. Short, sharp and to the (slightly abstract) point.
AdB: Rhys had an advantage, I know him. Innovative excellent song and voice.

AIM Project - I Malek, The Slave (5:51)

AR: The new Myrath? Arabic-tinged ProgMetal. Less repetitive riffing needed.
AdB: Eclectic prog metal on Mid East influences, reminds a lot of Myrath. Well played.

Marching Mind - Convergence (13:01)

AR: High-octane, complex ProgMetal - verging on TechMetal at times - with lighter moments too. Fabulous guitar. Would work better for me with a more "metal" singer and a central theme for the song.
AdB: Lengthy song starting with piano, turns into slightly bombastic prog rock with a vast taste of metal. Very interesting, curious on their other material.

The Troy Redfern Band - ...And the Gods Came Down (4:51)

AR: ...and my headphones came off. Vocals and guitar is not a sound I can enjoy.
AdB: Nothing stands out here, I got bored and even annoyed a bit.

Mike Kershaw - A Kind of Hell (12:37)
[Reason To Believe (2012)]

AR: Electrica-spiced mid-paced Prog. Semi spoken vocals. Drum machine?
AdB: Mike also has an advantage of me knowing him. Easy going singer songwriter lead by gentle guitar. Home made one man job. Lovely in its own right though a bit long.

Outlier - Omega Flower (6:30)

AR: Reto guitar rock lacking killer melody (and any Prog).
AdB: Simple, uninteresting, poprock song. Next!

TwoDeadBands - Black Hole (3:20)

AR: A very bad sound check leading to a third band mortality.
AdB: Won't buy an album or visit a gig of this band. Straightforward metal without anything to catch. Next!

Methexis - The Fall of Bliss (21:03)
[The Fall of Bliss (2011)]

AR: A 21-minute epic, minimalist, meditative soundscape.
AdB: Wow, 21 minutes! Bird tweets to some metal riffing to elevator music to experimental to flute and back again. Not my cup of tea, I guess there are lots of possible admirers out there though if you like the atmosphere and have the time.

Celluloid Winter - Blur (4:42)

AR: Likeable, soothing Floydy ballad.
AdB: Neo prog, good voice and obvious Floyd-ian composition ending with a guitar solo.

Eytan - Closed Eyes (Part 1) (6:40)

AR: Soothing orchestral ballad. Female singer is good.
AdB: Thrills on the female vocalist on a fine somewhat jazzy track.

starfish64 - Defender (5:27)

AR: Staying in ambient mode. Vocal style doesn't work for me.
AdB: When entering the minimalistic mode, you should have something special to offer. Starfish64 doesn't make this enough to keep me aboard.

Visions Project - Flame Inside of Me (11:56)

AR: Accented, operatic vocals. Pass.
AdB: Grunting and classic vocals are okay if balanced. Not the case here.

odetosun - Cracking Shell of Calypso (5:27)

AR: Tight metal band with expansive guitar sound. Great for those who enjoy growlies.
AdB: Unfortunately there is mainly grunting here. Musically a great metal track starting off with great metal riffing.

Sleestak - Lone Wolf (Patriot Version) (4:53)

AR: Slow stoner blues with brief jazzy solo. A great Prog Rock Wolf howl to start!
AdB: This is a nice oldskool blues track, not progrelated.

Heavy Temple - Unholy Communion (13:21)

AR: So retro I feel unborn. Ethereal moods, Led Zep guitars, spacey instrumentals. Best heard when stoned?
AdB: Lengthy and nice sixties Woodstock instrumental (with short vocalparts).

The Analogue - Aira Force (4:35)

AR: The music one hears in New Age hippy shops with crashing waves and bird song.
AdB: Can't make anything out of this. Enya variation.

Morild - Wildflower (21:10)
[Aves (2013)]

AR: Didn't really need a 21-minute track to hear this is a decent Prog band. Comparable to any number of other Scandie bands.
AdB: No new band here. Quality all along this extremely long Morild song.

Unified Past - Big (6:34)
[Observations (2011)]

AR: Classic, up-tempo Prog for fans of Yes, Genesis, Spock's, Flower Kings and all exorbitant instrumentals. Should be Big.
AdB: Alternative headstrong prog, lovely instrumental song. Would like to hear an album!

Dead End Space - Breathe In Breathe Out (9:58)
[Distortion of Senses (2013)]

AR: Counterparts-era Rush inspired heavy Prog. So good, I bought the album!
AdB: Ten minutes of great progressive rock from Sweden. I want this band on ProgPower 2014!

Daymoon - Ice Prospector (3:14)
[All Tomorrowa (2011)]

AR: '60s pop with a Caribbean vibe. Wrong compilation?
AdB: Rubbish. Did not even hear it out for the full 3 minutes!

A Devil's Din - Skylight (3:14)

AR: Spacey retro rock. To be listened to in your flares and open-necked flower shirt!
AdB: Sixties again, with some pot. Nice song though nothing new.

Wall of the Eyeless - Flicker (9:47)

AR: Death metal growls with some clearer vocals and gentler moments - relatively speaking!
AdB: Yet another one fit to program on ProgPower 2014. Well balanced metal.

Lion Farm - Chasing Chaos (4:16)

AR: Someone's been listening to early Blue Oyster Cult and some NWOBHM.
AdB: Oldskool prog on the heavy side. Great though not renewing.

EliphasZ - Les Lieux de Mémoire (19:48)

AR: Four simplistic instrumentals rolled into one 20-minute "song" is not Prog. Simples.
AdB: Yawning. Skipped a bit after a few minutes, glad I did. Instrumentals that keeps going on forever.

Standing Ovation - The Antikythera Mechanism Pt. 1 - Xekihima (8:59)
[The Antikythera Mechanism (2013)]

AR: Alt Prog with hints of metal. Reminds me a bit of Jolly.
AdB: This sounds so promising. Lovely quite and heavy metal mix with good clear vocals. Like to hear more!

Elephants of Scotland - Home Away From Home (3:59)
[Home Away From Home (2013)]

AR: Electronica meets Prog. Up-tempo and different. Enjoyed it more than the band name suggested I should.
AdB: The best band name of the year for sure! And they are American! Love this alternative mixed grill of styles. Tastes very good and refreshing.

Blue Cartoon - High Desert Suite (11:14)

AR: Well executed Retro Prog that a lot of DPRP readers would enjoy. Worth a listen.
AdB: Prog as we know it, looking back to Yes and more. Would make an interesting live set.

Electric Lords - Messiah (6:16)

AR: Is this not called grunge?
AdB: Wrong sampler.

The Rube Goldberg Machine - In Symmetry (6:28)

AR: Great groove to this mid-paced slice of Art Rock. For fans of Man On Fire, Alias Eye maybe even Abigail's Ghost.
AdB: Sounds like modern day progressive stuff. Appreciate this!

Flicker - Out There (6:00)
[How Much Are You Willing To Forget? (2013)]

AR: Contemporary sounding U.K. band in vein of Porcupine Tree and Pineapple Thief. Great vocalist. Very promising.
AdB: Already reviewed 8 out of 10 on DPRP. Agree on that, very beautiful song PT style.

Mirror of Dreams - Song of the Crystal Planet (9:51)

AR: We end on a gentle series of notes doodling with a synth.
AdB: The final song. I still live though not due to this song of keyboard nothingness.

And finally...

(AR): It never ceases to amaze me how many progressive bands there are out there.

The statistics: Of the 76 bands on this compilation. I'd only ever heard of twelve of them before and only actually heard music from six. DPRP itself has only ever reviewed 17 of these bands (plus three in the pipeline).

So kudos to Prog-Sphere for acting as an introduction agency. I'm on a first date with six of them as we speak!

The only complaint over this compilation is that 76 bands and 10 hours of music is just too much in one go. A bit tighter quality control should be put into the selections.

Firstly it does say PROG-stravaganza on the cover. Around 20 of these tracks have nothing whatsoever to do with Prog – even in its loosest definition. Secondly people are far more likely to make the effort to discover the really good bands if someone has already filtered out the less worthy. Sure, music is subjective but there are at least a dozen bands on this disc whose material is badly produced and /or don't yet have songs/musicianship of the necessary quality.

I do understand the business model for these compilations, but the risk is that poor quality will simply lower the reputation of the brand.

(AdB): I was familiar with Arabs in Aspic, Dialeto and Morild and own Rhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost and Mike Kershaw. The prize for best band name goes to Elephants of Scotland.

Andy and I have done this before, offline, on some previous versions of Progstravaganza samplers. Most of the time we are pretty close in our opinions. The differences are interesting. This time it was fun too but monstrous in stealing from the little time I have available! Many of the song choices on this sampler are questionable.

Hope you had fun reading these impossible but straight from the heart tiny review lines!

Top 5 Recommended Tracks

Andy Read

André de Boer

1.Dead End Space - Breathe In Breathe OutDead End Space - Breathe In Breathe Out
2.Rhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost - Wooden HeartRhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost - Wooden Heart
3.Fughu - The Human WayStanding Ovation - The Antikythera Mechanism Pt.1 - Xekihima
4.Karcius - WaterElephants of Scotland - Home Away From Home
5.(=) SIOS - Halcyon Failure I: Where The Change Grows
(=) Karmamoi - Odd Trip
Karcius - Water

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Published 10th November 2013
Album Reviews