The Usual Suspects
A Year In Review part 1

Early on many people proclaimed 2007 the best year in Prog ever. Whether it is the best ever remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: it is at least the year in which virtually every major contemporary Prog band released an album. In our second "Road To DPRPoll" special we will be looking back at some of the releases of the past year, focusing on the more well-known bands an artists, with next week's special focusing on the newcomers and the lesser obvious gems.

This list is by no means a definitive list, nor is this the list of favourite albums of DPRP Team members. It is merely meant as a reminder of all the great stuff that has been released in 2007, to serve as a preparation for the 2007 DPRPoll, which will start on January 1st 2008.

JANUARY

Pain of Salvation - Scarsick

After the general confusion caused to many listeners by the Pain Of Salvation's (overly?) ambitious concept album BE, this release was certainly highly anticipated by many fans as hopefully a return to normal service. The in-depth roundtable review seemed to conclude that it succeeded... in parts.

Click here for Roundtable Review

FEBRUARY

Blackfield - Blackfield II

The second collaborative outing by Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson and Israeli superstar Aviv Geffen, capturing ten pop-rock songs that are slightly more accessible than the songs on their debut album. The release of this album was followed by a tour and DVD, making it a good year for Blackfield.

Click here for Roundtable Review

Mostly Autumn - Heart Full Of Sky

Following the slightly dissapointing previous album Storm Over Still Waters, Mostly Autumn returned with a stronger and more diverse offering. Whilst not a complete return to the folk-infused style of earlier albums, it offered instead a winning fusion of folkey elements with the more classic rock-orientated style of their last two albums, with new member Chris Johnston proving a valuable addition, both in terms of playing and song-writing. More an album to satisfy the faithful than win the band new fans, Heart Full of Sky is nonetheless a good starting point for the novice. The band also proved once again that they are a great live band, and one of the hardest working on the UK circuit.

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Sylvan - Presets

An album that was largely written and recorded simultaneously with last year's popular Posthumous Silence. Unlike that album Presets is much more a showcase of the diversity of the band, as can also be found on their four pre-Posthumous Silence albums. For those who were introduced to Sylvan with Posthumous Silence, this is a fine introduction to the other side of their music.

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MARCH

Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura

The 16th century religious reformer Martin Luther provides the inspiration for the sixth solo album from the ex-Spock's Beard frontman. Morse continues to combine his faith with his love of classic prog to create his now familiar and uncompromising symphonic rock sound. With Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big fame adding extra weight in the guitar department, regulars Mike Portnoy (drums) and Randy George (bass) have their work cut out in the engine room.

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Casual Silence - Lost In Life

The Dutch progressive rockers Casual Silence take pomp and bombast to new heights on their fifth CD release. Boasting three lead voices, they are joined on this occasion by respected UK singer Damian Wilson and Sandra Peeters of V-Male. Add two guitarists, symphonic keys, a powerhouse rhythm section and some memorable hooks and the end result often feels like a night at the opera.

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Within Temptation - The Heart Of Everything

Within Temptation is without a doubt one of Holland's most popular bands of this moment. Ever since their mega hit Ice Queen Within Temptation served as a springboard for many female fronted metal bands, and the genre of gothic metal has never been so popular and hip as it is now. In an attempt to become more radiofriendly Within Temptation sacrificed much of their earlier sound for more compact commercial sounding songs, which has caused many of the band's core fans to turn their backs on the band, but gained the band plenty of new ones, as is evidenced by their headlining gig for 10,000 people in Ahoy' next year.

Not reviewed

APRIL

Threshold - Dead Reckoning

Threshold is well known for always delivering high quality prog metal. Dead Reckoning is no exception to that rule. Threshold's heaviest album to date sounds crystal clear and still has that familiar accessibility. Shortly before touring singer Mac suddenly left the band for personal reasons. If Dead Reckoning is his last Threshold album, it certainly is one to be proud of.

Click here for Duo Review

Porcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet

Steve Wilson's perception of contemporary teenagers, made apathetic by drugs and digital media. After two other heavier albums this concept album, inspired by Brett Easton Ellis' Lunar Park, became the band's definite breakthrough in many countries, moving them from clubs into arena-sized venues during the two parts of their world tour. Four outtakes, that could easily match the level of quality of the album, were later released on the Nil Recurring EP.

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After Forever - After Forever

It was probably a good idea in retrospect for After Forever to unimaginatively opt for a self-titled effort for album number five, as this album encapsulates all phases of the band, combining their more operatic and progressive side evident on their earlier material with the more streamlined, commercially-savvy approach of their previous album, Remagine. The result was a satisfying album sure to win them some new fans in this seemingly ever-growing genre.

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MAY

Rush - Snakes & Arrows

After two not very satisfying releases in 1996 and 2001, Rush come back this year with a record of striking energy and vitality full of high-level compositions. Supreme technique meets emotion, backed up by great and mature lyrics, as an answer to those who though Rush had nothing more to give. The trio put on the armor, raised the swords high and offered fans worldwide another opportunity to admire them on stage, at their extensive North American and European tour. We hold on!

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Planet X - Quantum

After enduring the departure of guitarist Tony MacAlpine in early 2004, Planet X finally return in full form with the release of their 3rd studio album Quantum. While the main core of the group remained, Brett Garsed masterfully handled guitar this time around. Quantum is dark, heavy fusion at its best and is sure to please all with an appreciation for the genre.

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JUNE

Kamelot - Ghost Opera

Kamelot’s eighth studio album offers a musical mix of progressive metal, gothic metal, power metal and mainstream hard rock, dominated by the sound of vocalist Roy Khan and guitarist Thomas Youngblood. Big part of their sound is production tandem Sascha Paeth and Miro who again are responsible for the excellent audio and orchestration of the songs. The progressive and gothic elements are less dominant but still all of the songs are flavoured with a moody atmosphere. The album features dramatic artwork by Mattias Norén and is housed in a luxury digipack, making it an essential purchase for any prog-metal fan.

Click here for Duo Review

Kaipa - Angling Feelings

Roine Stolt may have departed to commit exclusively to The Flower Kings but its business as usual from the other Kaipa regulars led by song writer, producer and keyboardist Hans Lundin. Guitarist Per Nilsson from Scar Symmetry fills his predecessors’ shoes in style adding to an impressive ensemble performance. Rich instrumental arrangements, memorable melodies and passionate vocals, it’s all here. An album to rival any of their previous works.

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Galahad - Empires Never Last

Leading neo-proggers Galahad may not be the most prolific band (7 albums in 22 years) but they certainly deliver the goods in style. A much heavier offering than usual, thanks to Threshold guitarist Karl Groom on production duties. The end result is a sharper, punchier and dare we say more commercial sound, summed up perfectly by the title track. Vocalist Stuart Nicholson is in gutsy form throughout assisted by Magenta's very own Christina Booth on two songs.

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Marillion - Somewhere Else

In the three years since Marbles Marillion had written enough new material two fill at least two discs. However, rather than releasing another double album, the band decided to release put the music on two separate albums, released one year apart. By choosing the songs they felt were most cohesive as an album, their 14th studio album turned out to be a very laid-back, atmospheric album, receiving mixed reviews from the band's extensive fanbase.

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Symphony X - Paradise Lost

Symphony X has been at the forefront in the rise of progressive metal in recent years. Paradise Lost picks up where The Odyssey left off. This concept album, based on John Milton’s 1667 poem of the same name, explores myriads of heavier and darker themes while still maintaining a perfect balance with the softer side for which they are most recognized for. They have reached the apex of style, composition and delivery with Paradise Lost.

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JULY

Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos

Dream Theater's last two albums, Train of Thought and Octavarium had been written with a clear musical concept in mind. Train of Thought was a very heavy album which resulted in Octavarium being very symphonic and a lot lighter. For Systematic Chaos the band had a blank canvas, which brought the two worlds together: brutal in your face metal tracks are altered with epic prog tracks with very symphonic themes. And with lyrical themes touching upon alcoholism, foreign politics, vampires and scary monsters, what is not to like?

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AUGUST

Fish - 13th Star

The key to a good Fish album seems to come from two things: 1) the more miserable and frustrated the big Scot is, the better his lyrics are, and 2) a good chemistry with his co-writer. For 13th Star both these factors are present: Fish' well-publicised break-up with Mostly Autumn's Heather Findlay resulted in very dark and depressing lyrics, while bassplayer Steve Vantsis proves remarkable apt at putting Fish' musical ideas into song. Add to that some stunning artwork from Mark Wilkinson and the result is the best Fish album in at least ten years.

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Epica - The Divine Conspiracy

For Epica 2007 would be the year of their big breakthrough. Their new album The Divine Conspiracy shows the true heavy side of Epica. The beautiful singing voice of Simone Jansen and the widely used orchestral arrangements in contrast to the heavy grunting are balanced perfectly on this album. This heavy album shows that Epica is still going and growing strong.

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SEPTEMBER

Deadsoul Tribe - A Lullaby For The Devil

"The last three albums were pretty much cut from the same cloth. Now was the time to begin anew, and redefine Deadsoul Tribe" said frontman Devon Graves. The change of direction on A Lullaby For The Devil is a very welcome move in the right direction. This album is still very much Deadsoul Tribe/Devon Graves, it just comes with a bit more anger and aggression. The most effective fusion of flute with power metal since Jethro Tull. With this album Deadsoul tribe can satisfy old fans and gain a lot of new ones.

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Nightwish - Dark Passion Play

Nightwish was enjoying a worldwide commercial breakthrough when popular singer and front piece Tarja Turinen was publicly fired. Dark Passion Play is the start of a new era for Nightwish. New singer Anette Olzon was given the uneasy task to replace Tarja but succeded in that, a new voice but not a change of style. Dark Passion Play daringly opens with the longest song on the album and is followed by compact heavy songs that for sure will please all their fans. With this new album Nightwish still remains the leader of the genre.

Click here for Duo Review

OCTOBER

Riverside - Rapid Eye Movement

In a remarkably short space of time, Polish prog rock foursome Riverside has come from nowhere, to become one of the most popular bands in the prog community (and beyond). This was the final part of the Reality Dream trilogy and certainly ends the saga on a much gentler note than that seen on Second Life Syndrome. A full European tour and continued appearances at festivals around the world, has ensured their star continues to shine ever brighter.

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The Flower Kings - The Sum Of No Evil

Beginning with Unfold the Future, The Flower Kings started experimenting and refining their sound by incorporating many other genres of music such as fusion, blues and even metal. After the softer, more straightforward Paradox Hotel, The Flower Kings return to their roots with a symphonic tour de force. The Sum of No Evil, in many aspects, nods in the direction of Stardust We Are and Retropolis by its strong emphasis on vintage organ and guitar sounds. The album saw the return of Zoltan Csörsz on drums, who left the band again shortly after the release of the album.

Click here for Duo Review

Saga - 10,000 Days

At first 2007 seemed to be a sad year for Saga fans. After 10,000 days as a member of Saga, singer Michael Sadler announced that he would be leaving the band. After thirty years he wanted to do something else with his life. But when the final Saga album with Sadler was released, 2007 was turned into a fantastic year for Saga fans. The album was packed with lots of killer songs that, in a couple of year’s time when looking back, will rank among the best of their career. That is quite an achievement after a career that long. We certainly hope that it won’t be the last we have heard of Saga and Michael Sadler.

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NOVEMBER

Glass Hammer - Culture Of Ascent

Another serving of densely structured prog with a vintage Yes, ELP, and Kansas flavour from Chattanooga's finest. New guitarist David Wallimann’s metallic shredding may seem a tad incongruous to some but Susie Bogdanowicz and Carl Groves' smooth vocals are in harmony with Steve Babb and Fred Schendel's melodic compositions. Two epic length tracks rub shoulders with the Yes classic South Side Of The Sky with 'vocalizations' by Jon Anderson.

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Quidam - Alone Together

The band's second album with the new rhythm section and singer continues in the direction they took with SuRevival and re-establishes Quidam among the best symphonic rock bands of the moment. The Polish proggers deliver a thematic album about loneliness and estrangement, an atmosphere captured convincingly by subdued vocals, beautiful flute playing and diverse guitar sounds.

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The Pineapple Thief - What We Have Sown

After the personal and intimate Little Man The Pineapple Thief delivered a stunning album of classic progressive rock. With a number of live concerts under their belt and more to follow, the group are beginning to gel, evidence by the collective performances on What We Have Sown. (Almost) title track, the epic What Have We Sown?, should feature heavily in the end of year polls and help to increase the popularity of this fine group.

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Manning - Songs From The Bilston House

Nine lovingly crafted songs from Guy inspired by past events behind the closed doors of a now empty house. Along with the usual suspects of guitar, bass, drums and keys, band and guests add sax, flute and fiddle to produce a rich blend of rock, pop, jazz, blues and folk. Tangent colleague Andy Tillison is on board with his unmistakable synth sound to add that extra proggy dimension and the DPRP are honoured with a mention in the liner notes.

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Satellite - Into The Light

The final part of a trilogy that also includes the well received albums A Street Between Sunrise And Sunset and Evening Games, Poland's Satellite once again delivered the symphonic goods with Into The Night. Perhaps a little rockier than before, and at times sounding rather over-produced, the band score highest when combining lush symphonic backdrops with winning melodies and choruses, which thankfully this album has in spades. Fans of the earlier albums can purchase with confidence, whilst those who enjoy the likes of Pendragon and (Satellite's predecessors) Collage should find plenty to dig into here.

Will be reviewed soon!

DECEMBER

Radiohead - In Rainbows

A four-year hiatus was unexpectedly over when Radiohead announced their new album in October. Rather than releasing their latest album through a record label, Radiohead went independent... and digital... and free! In a unique move, the dowload version of the album was not sold at a set price, but instead people could decide for themselves what they would pay for it, even if this was nothing at all. The stunt attracted the expected media attention, which completely overshadowed the attention for the actual music which is, in fact, not bad at all. In Rainbows is in many ways their most accessable album since OK Computer with some truly beautiful compositions and Thom Yorke's distinct whining way of singing. The CD version will be in stores on December 31st

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Written by Christos Ampatzis, Tom de Val, Geoff Feakes, Mark Hughes, Chris Jackson, Andy Read, Edwin Roosjen, Ed Sander & Bart Jan van der Vorst

The Road To DPRPoll 2007:

Part 1: The Decennial Poll

Part 3: Newcomers & Discoveries

Send feedback to the DPRP team.


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