UNITOPIA – SEVEN CHAMBERS – ESSENTIALS

It is strange to be reviewing UPF and Unitopia one after the other as they are very much related, not only musically but also in personnel, except this time around it is a band as opposed to a 40+ musicians. This band has always been the brainchild of Mark Trueack (vocals) and Sean Timms (keyboards, backing vocals, various stringed instruments), but they have brought in new members including Mark’s UPF songwriting buddy Steve Unruh (backing vocals, violin, flute, rhythm guitars, mandolin) along with John Greenwood (backing vocals, lead electric guitar, nylon-strung guitar, 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, programmed orchestration). If that were not enough, we also have a massively impressive rhythm section in drummer Chester Thompson (ex-Genesis, Frank Zappa, Weather Report) and bassist Alphonso Johnson (Santana, David Gilmour, Weather Report). Even before putting it on the player one knows this is going to be something impressive, and it is.

Musically it is closely related to UPF, not only through having the same singer but also a very similar approach, but here it is less layered (although there is still plenty of complexity) which allows for more space and for the music to breathe more easily as it is not being constrained by so many threads. However, although there are far less musicians, the main players are multi-instrumentalists which means they can bring in multiple sounds so we can go from acoustic guitar to piano, violin, or something much heavier. The idea of bringing in a ready formed experienced rhythm section was inspired, given these guys have been at the top of their game since the Seventies. Johnson’s touch on different basses is wonderful, his fretless slides often combining with Trueack’s vocals, while Thompson allows himself to sit back at times and blast through at others.

Due to when these albums were released, and their place in the alphabet, I have been listening to Unitopia straight after United Progressive Fraternity and consequently have been comparing them to each other. While there is more depth within the latter, it is the former I have enjoyed most as this is a release which hist all the high notes and the more it is played the more there is to be discovered and enjoyed

By Kev Rowland

Progressive fusion ensemble Unitopia announces new studio album Seven Chambers

Founded by vocalist/songwriter Mark “Truey” Trueack (United Progressive Fraternity) and multi-instrumentalist Sean Timms (Southern Empire, DamanekUPF) in 1996, Australian progressive fusion Unitopia has always been among the most renowned and distinctive bands of their ilk and era. Now the band is pleased to announce the new studio album Seven Chambers, due out on August 25th, 2023. 

Unitopia has undoubtedly reached new creative, emotional, and intellectual heights with their latest opus, Seven Chambers (their first original collection on independent label Progrock.com’s Essentials). Comprised of seven tracks and lasting just over eighty minutes, it’s an incredible journey that finds Unitopiareturning at the peak of their artistic and technical prowess

Tracklist:
  1. “Broken Heart” (8:30)
  2. “Something Invisible” (6:39)
  3. “Bittersweet” (7:20)
  4. “Mania” (12:29)
  5. “The Stroke of Midnight” (9:38)
  6. “Helen” (19:14)
  7. “The Uncertain” (18:33)

Unitopia:
Mark “Truey” Trueack – vocals, songwriting
Sean Timms – songwriting, keyboards, backing vocals, various stringed instruments
Steve Unruh – songwriting, backing vocals, violin, flute, rhythm guitars, mandolin
John Greenwood – songwriting, backing vocals, lead electric guitar, nylon-strung guitar, 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars, mandolin, programmed orchestration
Chester Thompson – drums
Alphonso Johnson – bass

Pre-orders for the digital and physical editions are now available via the following outlets:
Progrock.com’s Essentials (https://essentials.progrock.com)
Burning Shed (https://burningshed.com/tag/Unitopia)
Just for Kicks Music (https://justforkicks.de/en/)
White Knight Records (https://www.whiteknightshop2.co.uk/)
Unitopia’s Bandcamp page (https://unitopia.bandcamp.com/).
 
Plus, multiple color variations are available for the physical versions, as well as a special vinyl edition that features a die-cut cover revealing a portion of the sleeve behind it!

As the follow-up to 2010’s Artificial and 2012’s Covered Mirror Vol. 1 – Smooth as Silk (a superb assortment of classic/prog rock reinterpretations), Seven Chambers is Unitopia’s first new outing in over a decade. During the interim, each member kept busy with various other projects, and according to Progrock.com’s Essentials’ Mark Monforti, the method of getting the group going again was endearingly fortuitous:

“A few years ago, Steve Hackett was exploring studios and players for a show in Australia, and he contacted Timms about using the studio that he and Truey still owned. That got Sean and Truey talking about possibly working on new music together. Then, I reached out to them about doing some shows. They went exceedingly well, which sort of solidified the fact that Unitopia needed to come back.”

With Timms and Trueack reunited, the duo decided to expand Unitopia by bringing in fellow UPF maestro SteveUnruh, guitarist Dr. John Greenwood, drummer Chester Thompson (Frank ZappaWeather ReportGenesis) and bassist Alphonso Johnson (Weather ReportSantanaDavid Gilmour).

Seven Chambers is a globe-spanning effort that began in 2021, with virtually every member working in their own studio in either America or Australia. Although things got off to a strong start, a few unexpected hiccups somewhat impeded the band’s headway.

“Progress was severely interrupted by Sean’s other commitments, such as moving into a renovated house and being in-demand with other projects and festivals. Then, Truey and Chester faced personal hardships. At more than one stage, it looked like the record might never happen. Luckily, the delays led to a few solo projects blossoming, and suddenly, our schedules began clearing in early 2023 and we began moving at a real pace again,” SteveUnruhexplains.

Thus, Seven Chambers is truly a testament to Unitopia’s chemistry and commitment, not only because it sees them triumphing over those setbacks but because it ended up being roughly twice as long as the original 40-minute plan (without a moment of filler!)

Discography:
More Than a Dream (2005, Unicorn Digital)
The Garden (2008, Inside Out Music)
Artificial (2010, Inside Out Music)
One Night in Europe (2011, live, Musea Records)
Covered Mirror Vol. 1 – Smooth as Silk (2012, Musea Records)
More Than a Dream – The Dream Complete (2017, Giant Electric Pea)
The Garden (2020, compilation/boxset, Progrock.com’s Essentials)
Seven Chambers (2023, Progrock.com’s Essentials)

The band already have a few dates lined up which you can see here:

2023 Tour Dates:
3 Sept. – 2Days Prog + 1, Veruno Novara, Italy
5 Sept. – Konzertfabrik Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
9 Sept. – Neuberinhaus, Reichenbach im Vogtland, Germany
13 Sept. – Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg, Germany
14 Sept. – Poppodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands
15 Sept. – Chez Paulette Pub Rock, Pagney derrière Barine, France
8 Oct. – ProgStock, Rutherford, New Jersey, USA
 

For more information:
[email protected]
https://www.facebook.com/progrockessentials
https://unitopiamusic.net/home
https://www.facebook.com/Unitopiamusic
https://twitter.com/Unitopiaband
https://unitopia.bandcamp.com/