After a wonderful week at Baja Prog and getting to see fabulous performances from Hackett, Anglagard, Locanda delle Fate, and Gran Turismo Veloce (among others), I’m finally now getting settled to the point of devouring some more of this year’s releases. I must express my excitement for some of the fabulous releases we’ve seen this year, including loads of bands who are finding that sweet spot between the old and the new. Thus, I leave you with a few bite-size portions of records that I hope will please your ears as much as they did ours. Happy listening!
Thieves Kitchen – One for Sorrow, Two for Joy
Just in case you didn’t get enough of Thomas from Anglagard last year with the monumental release of Viljans Oga, here’s another bit that will surely satisfy your apetite. The transnational prog act Thieves’ Kitchen delivers with an album that starts of good and becomes absolutely golden by its closing phrases. While the opener, “Deor” gives us a taste from the start that we’ll get some catchy symphonic with tasteful fusion additions and beautiful vocals, I was not entirely prepared for the maturity and brilliance of compositions like “Germander Speedwell” and “Of Sparks and Spires,” both of which showcase Amy Darby’s unconventional vocal lines over hypnotizing chord changes and enough Mellotron to make anyone happy. “Germander Speedwell” is a very evocative piece with a nice acoustic intro that takes advantage of mesmerizing cello and flute performances to create a piece that pulls off being long and interesting without having to go through wild mood changes. Then there’s my personal favorite of the album, “Of Sparks and Spires, another long piece that opens up with some really dreamy modal trumpeting before launching into a classic prog lover’s dream come true (with some modern twists) by way of a roller-coaster feast of Hammond and Mellotron over a backdrop of crunchy guitars and pounding drums and bass. “Of Sparks and Spires” is bound to become one of the more memorable pieces of this year, as I’m sure One for Sorrow, Two for Joy is an album that I’ll keep coming back two in the future.
Godsticks – The Envisage Conundrum
Every once in a while it’s cool to hear albums that sound totally prog but totally modern. Godsticks’ latest album, The Envisage Conundrum does just that with its array of clever riffing, interesting rhythms, and dreamy textures. What caught my attention immediately about this band was their particular modal sensibilities that just screamed out Steve Vai (Story of Light and Real Illusions particularly), but with a vocalist. Great stuff happens all around this album, from the dreamy use of tonality and atmospheric use of bells on the title track to the sense of smoothness the vocal arrangements give part 3 of the “Borderstomp” trilogy. If you like interesting guitar textures and clever guitar phrasing that’ll make you grin, you’ve found your stop. Throw in there an ultra modern sensibility that’ll appeal to the school of Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree without scaring off the old school fans and we’ve got an album that I honestly can’t see many people disliking. Can’t wait to hear more from these Welsh boys in the future.
King Bathmat – Truth Button – (review by Kyler Stoneman)
KingBathmat hails from England, proudly demonstrating their English heritage with influences such as Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath keenly felt throughout their latest album, Truth Button. While exhibiting a diverse array of influences, the end result is nevertheless very coherent and effective, providing a consistent mood well-suited to the album’s lyrical theme of “technophobia and disconnection” (from the bands’s Bandcamp page). For this reason, Truth Button is best enjoyed as an album, although each song is excellent on it’s own. If rich musical arrangement with a diverse yet unified assortment of influences accompanied by thought-provoking, socially relevant lyrics is your thing, you might want to give Truth Button a listen at progstreaming.com!