Today sees the release of the animated video for PROPER JACK FROSTER, the latest single from BIG BIG TRAIN, taken from the forthcoming WELCOME TO THE PLANET album. Proper Jack Froster is based on a story from Gregory Spawton’s childhood in the Midlands in the UK in the 1970s.
Work on the video by Swedish animator Love Andreas Gson Fagerstedt began before the untimely, tragic passing of Big Big Train’s singer David Longdon on 20th November 2021. David’s partner and the band have decided that the video should still be released to help to promote the forthcoming album to the fullest extent possible.
Watch the video here:
Big Big Train’s March 2022 UK tour will now not take place; ticket holders should contact their point of purchase for information on refunds. Prior to David’s death the band had been on the verge of announcing a North American tour consisting of over 20 shows in May and June 2022. This projected North American tour will also not be taking place.
The band will be making an announcement next year about its future, including regarding the September 2022 shows that are scheduled to take place in the UK. Ticket holders for these September shows are encouraged to retain their tickets for the time being pending that further announcement. No further comment will be made about the band’s future before next year.
As with COMMON GROUND, WELCOME TO THE PLANET sees Big Big Train retain their progressive roots but also take influence from all spheres of music. The four recent singles “Proper Jack Froster’, ‘Made Of Sunshine ‘The Connection Plan’ and ‘Lanterna’ are also included along with keyboard player Carly Bryant’s first Big Big Train writing credit and lead vocal on the captivating title track. The album is completed by the delicate acoustic ‘Capitoline Venus’, the beautiful ‘Oak And Stone’ and a pair of dazzling instrumentals, ‘A Room With No Ceiling’ and ‘Bats In The Belfry’, written by guitarist/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom and drummer Nick D’Virgilio respectively.
As Devin announced earlier this year, he has been using the Covid downtime to work on new material for upcoming albums, and for a current lack of touring possibilities and encounters with fans on the road he decided to do a series of live albums, quarantine albums, and generally interesting projects that keep people entertained while he’s busy on his next larger releases. The series is called the “Devolution Series”.
Devin comments in this video
“So we bring to you the ‘Devolution Series’: a grouping of oddities and interesting material that I would like people to hear, but don’t necessarily want to present as a ‘major release’. The series will include all the quarantine songs and concerts, as well as various live shows from the past few years. I’m am currently deep in the writing of my new projects and am very excited to be doing so. Thanks for facilitating my ability to do that, and I hope you enjoy the ‘Devolution Series’.”
The second release under the “Devolution Series” moniker will be the “Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine” album, scheduled for June 25th 2021. It was recorded in 2020 in various places around the world as a replacement show for the COVID affected “Empath Vol 2 European Tour” and cancelled Summer festivals. It originally aired on September 5th 2020 on StageIt.com.
For a first impression of what to expect, here’s the video for “Aftermath.” Enjoy!
DEVIN TOWNSEND “Devolution Series #2 –Galactic Quarantine” track listing: 1. Velvet Kevorkian (Virtually Live 2020) – 2:28 2. All Hail The New Flesh (Virtually Live 2020) – 5:32 3. By Your Command (Virtually Live 2020) – 8:18 4. Almost Again (Virtually Live 2020) – 3:42 5. Juular (Virtually Live 2020) – 3:50 6. March Of The Poozers (Virtually Live 2020) – 5:25 7. Supercrush! (Virtually Live 2020) – 5:15 8. Hyperdrive (Virtually Live 2020) – 3:42 9. Stormbending (Virtually Live 2020) – 5:21 10. Deadhead (Virtually Live 2020) – 7:55 11. Aftermath (Virtually Live 2020) – 6:51 12. Love? (Virtually Live 2020) – 5:21 13. Spirits Will Collide (Virtually Live 2020) – 4:35 14. Kingdom (Virtually Live 2020) – 5:05 15. Detox (Virtually Live 2020) – 6:20
Lyrically, and musically, the award-winning Dutch artist lays her soul bare with the most evocative record of her career – captivating song-stories told with acoustic guitars, strings, horns, percussion, and Anneke’s hypnotic vocal harmonies
The new album’s title, ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’, refers to the idea that, when facing personal challenges, we are forced to find answers to life’s biggest questions. But, at this point in her near-three-decade-long music career, this solo album – and, crucially, the heartbreak that inspired it – was not something Anneke van Giersbergen ever anticipated writing.
In 2018, Anneke began working on new material for her metal band, VUUR. Although their debut album, ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’, was met with a mixed reception, fans were warming up to their heavy, progressive sound. Therefore, a rapid follow-up album would surely establish Anneke’s return to fronting a metal band. However, behind the scenes, these were troubled times.
Anneke shares, ”My belief in VUUR saw me spend all my savings on recording VUUR’s debut album and taking the band on the road. After completing our first touring cycle, I realized that more VUUR would mean yet more, huge financial risks.”
To make matters worse, in 2018, her long-lasting marriage, which had always been wonderful, unexpectedly saw a storm approaching. Anneke adds, “I instantly knew I needed to write music about fixing my life. This creative endeavour would be far too personal for a VUUR album. And it would also require solitude.”
With just her acoustic guitar and basic recording gear, Anneke retreated to a small house near the woods, just outside her hometown of Eindhoven. She let go of the pressures of what VUUR’s future might be, and fell into the meditative process of writing a solo album. In 2019, work continued on the new songs. In 2020, Anneke asked her friend and producer, Gijs Coolen, to help finish the album.
Throughout the completion of the album, Anneke’s fragile, acoustic song-stories were fused together with an alchemy of panoramic strings, horns, and percussion. The resulting 11-track record has all the intimacy of Anneke serenading an audience of one, combined with surprising departures into swampier, foot-stomping grooves.
The Japanese art of kintsugi has inspired Anneke to use a repaired heart as the album’s symbol. Kintsugi teaches that bringing together the pieces of a broken object – with the use of a precious metal – adds value and uniqueness to it. And, instead of giving up on their marriage, Anneke and her husband decided to take the time to mend their bond. They now cherish the repaired heartbreak as something profoundly valuable.
Their journey through this personal storm, and the album that Anneke created in the eye of it, proves that the darkest skies truly are the brightest.
The album will be available as CD Digipak, Gatefold LP + CD & as digital album. 01. Agape 02. Hurricane 03. My Promise 04. I Saw A Car 05. The Soul Knows 06. The End 07. Keep It Simple 08. Lo And Behold 09. Losing You 10. Survive 11. Love You Like I Love You
‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ is Anneke’s 23rd career album. It proves, once again, that the award-winning Dutch artist defies being pigeonholed by any genre.
After thirteen years as the front woman for melancholic metallers, The Gathering, she struck out on her own in 2007. Since then, her creativity has known no bounds. Anneke quickly solidified a successful solo career (initially under the moniker Agua de Annique), and has recorded and performed with Canadian metal genius Devin Townsend multiple times. She has also lent her serene yet powerful voice to the likes of: Anathema, Icelandic folk group Árstíðir, Within Temptation, Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen, Amorphis, and prog legend John Wetton.
2012’s ‘Everything is Changing’ was something of a milestone in Anneke’s solo career. The album, which was the first to be released under her own name, received two Edison Award nominations – Holland’s most prestigious music prize – in the categories ‘Best Female Artist’ and ‘Best Album’.
In 2015, Anneke van Giersbergen and Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) released their collaborative album ‘The Diary’ under the name The Gentle Storm. In October 2017, Anneke’s progressive metal outfit VUUR released their much-anticipated debut album. ‘In This Moment We Are Free – Cities’ entered the Dutch Album Top 100 at number 2, Anneke’s highest-ever chart position.
Forever the unpredictable artist, in late 2018, Anneke released ‘Symphonized’, an 11-track live orchestral album. It was recorded at two career-spanning concerts alongside Residentie Orkest The Hague, and features rearrangements of songs from her entire back catalogue.
2019 saw Dutch music copyright organization Buma Cultuur honor Anneke with the Buma ROCKS! Export Award. This is their award for the Most Successful Dutch Artist Abroad in Heavy Music. In 2021, the release of her new solo album ‘The Darkest Skies Is The Brightest’ will see Anneke surprise her fans all over again.
TRANSATLANTIC – the Prog Supergroup of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt & Pete Trewavas – are pleased to announce their fifth studio album ‘The Absolute Universe’, set for release on February 5th, 2021. Representing the band’s first new music since 2014’s ‘Kaleidoscope’, with ‘The Absolute Universe’ the band have done something unique and created two versions of the record: ‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’ & ‘The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Version)’.
As Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.” Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD,” adds Trewavas. “What’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”
Each album will be available on CD, LP & Digitally. But there will also be what has been called ‘The Absolute Universe: The Ultimate Edition’, which collects both versions together in one lavish package that includes 5LP’s, 3CD’s & a Blu-ray that contains a 5.1 surround sound mix with visuals & a behind the scenes documentary. All editions have unique artwork created by Thomas Ewerhard. The full list of formats is below, and pre-orders start on the 20th November:
‘The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)’
Limited Deluxe Clear 5LP+3CD+Blu-Ray Box-set – contained within a foil-finished lift-off box with extended 16-page LP booklet & 60x60cm poster
Initial tracking began in September 2019 when the band met up in Sweden to write and arrange the new material. As Portnoy explains: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.”
“What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding,” recalls Stolt. “Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.”
This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. “Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right?” laughs Portnoy. “What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.”“We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual,” admits Stolt. “The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”
So, how does this new ground-breaking album compare to Transatlantic’s previous four albums?
“I always try not to compare albums as much as possible,” insists Morse. “It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with ‘The Whirlwind’ album (the band’s third, from 2009) than others that we’ve created.” For Trewavas, ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.
“I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”
Transatlantic were originally formed in 1999, releasing their debut album ‘SMTPe’ the following year as well as its follow-up ‘Bridge Across Forever’ in 2001. Following a 7-year hiatus, the band reconvened to record and release the much-acclaimed epic 77-minute, single-track album ‘The Whirlwind’ followed by a world tour in 2010 which included an appearance at High Voltage Festival in London where they were joined by legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The band’s fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’ arrived in 2014, going on to win ‘Album Of The Year’ at the Progressive Music Awards.
On October 30th, 2020 progressive rockers THE FLOWER KINGS will release their new double album “Islands” on InsideOutMusic, just a year after the group’s much celebrated “Waiting For Miracles”.
Due to the Covid-19-pandemic, the album comes out quite a bit sooner than originally planned as the band’s creative mastermind Roine Stolt explains: “All shows and festivals were cancelled and the future didn’t really ‘unfold’ itself like we had hoped. To sit out the pandemic with no activities was not an option for us! We can’t be stopped by an evil virus! So, with members living in the USA, Italy, Austria and Sweden, the only way to realize this album, was to use the magic of the ‘net’, sending files around the globe and start building what now has become a mammoth-sized double album of 21 songs.”
The 92 minutes long “Islands” features artwork by legend Roger Dean (Yes, Asia, Gentle Giant, Greenslade, Uriah Heep) and all trademark sounds and melodies, the band is renowned for. From vintage keys to epic guitar solos, from odd drum patterns to symphonic elements, THE FLOWER KINGS present a dynamic and complex record that is bold, bombastic and beautiful.
Stolt reveals the following about the concept of the record: “The theme of the album is isolation – so the title ‘Islands’ felt like a most relevant title – as much of it circulates around isolation, loss, and the fear of being disconnected. Having to face this unexpected pandemic will leave marks on each one of us for a very long time and to lose loved ones forces us to soldier on, learning and growing a stronger version of ourselves in this fragile cycle of life.
Musically; the aim has been to create a bigger grand epic piece out of 21 songs – so they are all connected with themes that weave in and out – like the way ‘Sgt Peppers’ or ‘The Lamb’ were built on shorter songs, but yet linked. So view it as one mega song or as 21 separate pieces, it is all tailored to be listened to as one piece – like a cinematic 90min long ride.”
Disc One (49:40) 1 – Racing With Blinders On 4:24 2 – From The Ground 4.02 3 – Black Swan 5:53 4 – Morning News 4:01 5 – Broken 6:38 6 – Goodbye Outrage 2:19 7 – Journeyman 1:43 8 – Tangerine 3:51 9 – Solaris 9:10 10 – Heart Of The Valley 4:18 11- Man In A Two Peace Suit 3:21
Disc Two (43:01) 1 – All I Need Is Love 5:48 2 – A New Species 5:45 3 – Northern Lights 5:43 4 – Hidden Angles 0:50 5 – Serpentine 3:52 6 – Looking For Answers 4:30 7 –Telescope 4:41 8 – Fool’s Gold 3:11 9 – Between Hope & Fear 4:29 10 – Islands 4:12
“Islands” will be available as massive Limited 3LP & 2CD box set with slipcase and 180 gram vinyl housed in two gatefolds, one single sleeve; as Limited Edition 2CD Digipak and Digital Album. Presales will start September 11th, 2020.
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