25 years on from its original release, the cover has changed in that Devin has had a new photo taken, and the album has been remastered and also now includes seven bonus tracks including the songs from the ‘Christeen’ EP. I vividly remember the impact this album had on me when it was released, as while I knew Devin from Strapping Young Lad, he had only released one album under his own name prior to this one and when I heard this I was absolutely blown away by the production and his approach to prog metal. It was recorded after Devin had checked himself into a mental hospital where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and while he played most of the instruments himself, he also brought in SYL bandmate Gene Hoglan on drums, Fear Factory bassist Christian Olde Wolbers plus Andy Codrington (trombone).

It was with this album that Devin really got to grips with his wall of sound approach to production: he later described this as “the parent project” of ‘City’ and ‘Biomech’, and anyone who knows those albums will agree this bastard offspring is far greater than what went before. This was the release which had me desperate to find out more about the mad Canuck and is still as fresh today as it was all those years ago. That he can go full on pronk on “Ants” is just wonderful but compare that to the anthemic bombast which is “War”, still one of my very favourite tracks of his, and it is interesting to note just how close the ‘Retinal Circus’ version is to this. This album is where Devin really came of age and found himself, and the learnings he took on that journey has been the foundation for what he has achieved since. These days Devin Townsend is a household name to anyone interested in progressive metal, but back then he was a musician who had toured with Steve Vai and The Wildhearts (one of the tracks on ‘Infinity’ is co-written with Ginger), then formed his own band which gained critical but little popular acclaim, Strapping Young Lad. This album changed all that, and I loved it 25 years ago, and my view has still not changed. Awesome. 10/10 Kev Rowland


Here we have the debut album from T.A.P., a multinational group of musicians who have known each other for years in one way or another, yet only recently decided to work together to create their own music. Mike Jobborn (keyboards, synth, soundscapes, drum programming), Mark Cook (Warr guitar, guitars, basses, drums, soundscapes, synths, samples, strings) and Suzi James (guitars, bass, oud, flute, percussion) play on all eight tracks while Gayle Ellett (Hammond, Moog, Mellotron) is on five and then Paul Sears and Bill Bachman add drums to one song each (although I must say the drum programming on the other tracks is much better than is often the case).

I reviewed Gayle and Mark only recently (Gayle Ellett and the Electromags), plus have known the music of Djam Karet for decades, while The Muffins (Paul Sears) is never too far away from my playlists and I reviewed the debut Fearful Symmetry (Suzi James) album a while back and Mike Jobborn and I have been FB friends for years. Knowing so many people in a band can actually be a problem at times (I am also friends with Gayle, Paul and Suzi!), as there is always the worry that if an album is not as good as one might expect how do I say that without upsetting someone? Luckily that has not happened too often, and generally we became friends in the first place because I enjoyed their work, and here we have something which is an absolute delight. There are times when the music is quite Floydian, where the instruments are blended in such a way that they rarely move above the keyboards but rather blend in to create something which is amorphic, changing and swelling as the need arises. There are others when it is more direct, but always the feeling is that this is a living and breathing stream of consciousness, something which is in motion and creating its own path as it meanders through the landscape and to fully appreciate the delights one needs to immerse oneself in the flow. 

The interplay between the instruments is delicate, and there is very much the feeling this will always be a studio project just because there are so many threads being brought in and out, multiple guitars and keyboards mixing with the rhythm section, yet there are also times when people take a rest and sit back, knowing their contribution to that section of the music is not to be involved at all. This is thoughtful stuff; there has been no sense of ego or self as all those involved have put that to one side and instead have become part of a collective whole. This is not music to be played in the background but needs to be listened to on headphones when one has the time and inclination to let the rest of the world pass by. This is timeless album, and somehow feels quite modern (although wonderfully dated at times by the Hammond) yet belongs to the era when people listened to music just for its own sake as opposed to being another background noise. If that is you, then there is much here to enjoy.     8/1 Kev Rowland


Over the course of self and state-ordered quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, multi-instrumentalist Juan R Leõn found time to write a short parable inspired by an article on faith and the “new normal”. Not being confident in his own singing abilities, Juan reached out to friend and poet Corey Stano to provide the vocal performance on “The Rhino And The Oxpecker”, which is the opening track on this release. I noticed this album was indicated as being a deluxe edition, so wondered what else was available and I note that SATL independently released an album of the same name in 2020, but that is all I know about it, so cannot state if this contains the same recordings/songs or if it has been dramatically altered. What I do know is that I am incredibly pleased that Nick Katona has seen fit to sign the band to MRR as this is an intriguing release from beginning to end.

I have long been a fan of Hibernal and the way that Mark seamlessly blends his music with wonderful science fiction worlds, and in some ways what we have here is a sister project to that as Corey tells stories while Juan provides a soundscape using his skills as a bassist/stickest (he also plays American Flute). We also get some additional dialogue where it makes sense, with Winston Churchill’s words being instantly recognisable, all of which builds layers on layers of gossamer threads so that while none of it feels oppressive the result is a very strong structure indeed. As a poet, Corey is obviously used to giving performances of her own work and her presence is wonderful, so much so that one does not even notice she is not singing, as it fits so well with the musical scaffold being built. Juan can play delicately at times, allowing the ambience to build, but there are others where he shows just how adept he is at different styles, providing complex note density.

This is a wonderfully fresh and exciting piece of work as it is so out of the norm and quite different to what we normally expect to hear. It is definitely a partnership in that there is just the right balance between vocal and musical leads, while the music enhances the words and vice versa. There are messages within the music so that when it finishes one can be found contemplating what has been played, with the result being something which is difficult to truly describe but very easy indeed to get lost inside and enjoy. 8/10 Kev Rowland

Colin Carter – Tracks In Space – Melodic Revolution Records 

It would take ages to list all the bands and musicians Colin has been involved with in the last 50+ years, but many will recognise his name from being co-founder of Flash with Peter Banks. Five years on from his debut as a solo artist, ‘One’, he is now back with this five-track release which is just under 30 minutes in length. Colin provides lead and harmony vocals, drum programming, bass, keyboards and guitar while he also worked long distance with George Keller who added guitar and more guitar. Colin’s vocals still have plenty of range, and it is difficult to realise he was in his seventies when this was recorded, having been born just a few hours after Peter Banks in 1947.

This does not sound like an album of today, nor does it sound British, which is probably not a surprise given that Colin has been living in the States for more than 40 years now. It feels like a late Seventies commercial mild rock album, of which there appeared to be many back then. There is not really enough of an edge, but just enough to give the album some presence, and while the drum machine is obviously not as good as the real thing it is not too obtrusive in this instance. The result is something which is mostly middle of the road and quite forgettable, but there are some instances (such as on “Night Vision Number 2”) where things start to come to life as the music moves more in a power pop direction. Would I play this in preference to the first two Flash albums? No, and having written about it I cannot imagine playing it again, yet while it is on this is a pleasant listen and I am sure there are plenty of people out there who will be surprised to know Colin is still going and will be intrigued enough to give this a try.

Rating: 6/10 Kev Rowland


With a relationship stretching back more than 30 years, my prog writing journey will always be inextricably linked to Galahad as theirs was the first album I bought from the underground scene, while they in turn put me in touch with another band and it all went downhill from then. I have written words for a few of their booklets, and while I have not seen them play since moving to New Zealand I am still often in contact with singer Stu Nicholson. I know this closeness means I am never nearly as objective as others when it comes to reviewing Galahad, but when a band keeps putting out wonderful albums then I feel justified in continually singing their praises. This is their twelfth studio album, and features the same line-up as with the last release, ‘The Last Great Adventurer’, namely Stu Nicholson (vocals), Dean Baker (keyboards), Spencer Luckman (drums), Lee Abraham (guitars) and Mark Spencer (bass guitar). Recorded in multiple places it was then edited, mixed and mastered by engineer/producer Karl Groom (Threshold/Dragonforce/Pendragon/Arena/Yes etc.) who has now been working with them for some time.

This is possibly the most polished release to date from the Dorset boys, with a somewhat heavier emphasis on Stu’s vocals as the band continue to evolve. When I first knew them they were solid 90’s neo prog, then moved into prog metal with the change in approach heralded by the arrival of Dean Baker and now happily straddle multiple sub-genres so while they are firmly “prog” it would be wrong to try and shoehorn them into any particular bucket. I have known Karl nearly as long as Stu, and while I always think of him first and foremost as a guitarist, he has built a richly deserved reputation on the other side of the desk, and has done wonders in bringing Spencer’s playing to the fore. When I listen back to early recordings one cannot hear all the work being put behind the kit, but when those tracks have been remastered by Karl it has been like hearing a new band, and here Spencer can be heard driving the band ever onwards. Mark is a multi-instrumentalist (and a fine singer in his own right), so his approach to the bass is quite different in that he is looking to see what he can add to the melody as well as underpinning the arrangement, while Lee is another renowned performer and his second stint in the band (he was originally bassist) as guitarist has allowed him to spread his musical wings. All this adds to the way the band keeps shifting and melding, while Dean is a musical magpie who didn’t even know what prog was until he joined the band a quarter of a century ago, and his relationship with Stu has meant they keep shifting and changing.

I mean, listen to “The Righteous and the Damned”, which commences with some acapella vocals overlaid on background noise of people walking around, but what some may not realise is that Stu is singing the words from the title cut of 2007’s ‘Empires Never Last’ before somehow the music segues into something Eastern European and folky. One of the joys of Galahad is they no longer feel shackled by any expectations so instead do whatever they want, and when this song turns into a System of a Down-style belter I was not too surprised, but was very pleased. The title cut of this album is about dealing with dementia and is very personal indeed. Stu has always had a way with words and here he paints a picture while Dean is there by his side on piano as we build into the piece. The layers gradually build as we are taken into the world of someone who is “filling up this thing which makes the water go hot, to make some drinks for people in another room whose names escape me”. Those two lines are incredibly powerful, and the arrangements allow for us to understand the emotions being displayed and the sense of loss and helplessness. As the song ends Stu takes two lines from Gabriel’s “I Don’t Remember”, which itself was about being trapped in a situation it is impossible to get out of, and delivers them in an incredibly poignant manner.

Musically this album is all over the place, from Eighties-style electronic dance through to prog metal and everything in between, yet the vocals and arrangements bring the album together so one looks forward to the next unexpected fork in the road and the detour where we move back on ourselves or in a totally different direction. Galahad consistently refuse to rest on their laurels and show no sign at all of losing inspiration or slowing down, and long may that continue. 10/10 Kev Rowland


Here we yet again have Clive taking a look at music which inspired him and performing it in a classical instrumental manner. Again he has taken the music and adapted it in a manner which is both true to the original and sympathetic to it but lifts the songs into new directions. It would be difficult to fault the choice of bands, with Genesis, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, ELP, VDGG, Led Zeppelin, Rush and Yes all here, but true progheads will be pleased to also note the inclusion not only of Marillion but also IQ and his version of “Widow’s Peak” is simply wonderful. I have always said the progressive bands who have been producing albums since the heyday of the genre should be recognised in the same breath as the classics, and here Clive ends the release by having Marillion close (with “Garden Party” segueing nicely into “Grendel”). 

It is difficult to pick a favourite, but a special mention must be made of “Thick As A Brick”. We may not get the full length, but there is more than 20 minutes here to enjoy as he adapts his way through the classic. I am not overly fond of “Stairway to Heaven”, but I am sure that is because we have now been spoiled by the Heart version which will always be regarded as the gold standard. “Fanfare For The Common Man” is one of the most successful from a classical adaptation viewpoint, with glorious woodwind opening, and violins behind the piano for the main theme. Yes, this is all being played on synths, but Clive has done a wonderful job in using the best sounds for each “voice”. All it needs now is for a live performance with the LSO (or similar) showing just what Clive has managed to achieve with these great arrangements.

In recent years Clive has been producing some wonderful releases, and this is yet another that all progheads will surely enjoy, I know I did. 9/10 Kev Rowland