Newcomers & Discoveries
A Year In Review part 2

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 a lot of new names emerged in the prog scene. In our third "Road To DPRPoll" special we will be looking back at some of the releases of the past year, focusing on the lesser known bands and artists, as a counterbalance to last week's special which focused on the better-known acts.

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

Lazuli - En Avant Doute

In the last week of 2006 Musea Records released the third album of this French band. The band had already won prestigeous awards like at the Montreux Jazz Festival, where Lazuli has been making an annual appearance for the past four years. However, it took the rest of the world a bit longer to discover this band. The sextet offers a unique blend of folk, fusion and prog, which draws close to the intensity of King Crimson and the melodic approach of Porcupine Tree. The sound is dominated by "La Leode" a unique, one-of a kind midi instrument which produces guitarlike solos. The band's appearance at the Symforce festival in The Netherlands instantly won them a couple hundred new fans.

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Ryan Parmenter - The Noble Knave

In a departure from the dark and somewhat sinister music that Parmenter's band Eyestrings indulge in, this solo effort was a rather upbeat and inspiring collection of progressive pop songs written during the previous 10 years. Sometimes off-the-wall, sometimes downright weird but always accessible, humorous and a joy to listen to. The Noble Knave is a great example of the lighter side of prog and a true indication that prog performers are not always trapped in existential angst.

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Alias Eye - In Focus

The first 2007 release to receive a Roundtable Review was Alias Eye's In Focus. After no less than four years of silence, the third full length album by Germany's Alias Eye finds them going 'back to basics'; a more straightforward rock approach. The quirkiness and sense of humour is still very much present, but it's questionable if this will fully satisfy fans of the first two albums.

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Blind Ego - Mirror

RPWL meets Arena? Or so it seems when Kalle Wallner teams up with John Jowitt, Paul Wrightson and John Mitchell (among others) for his first 'solo' project. The result is a bit of a mixed bag with instrumentals and songs sung by Wrightson and Mitchell in their respective theatrical and raw styles. The previously unreleased Violet District song only adds to this feeling.

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Nemo - SI Partie II ~ L'homme Idéal

SI Partie II takes of exactly were part one stopped. The same familiar melody kicks right in and takes the listener on a musical journey with French vocals and countless beautiful melodies. Nemo has created an album that puts the melodic in front of the rock. A warm bath for Nemo fans and quite an enjoyment for people unfamiliar with Nemo.

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FEBRUARY

Gazpacho - Night

Although Norwegian art rock band Gazpacho had already released three albums and played two tours with Marillion prior to Night it was this concept album that finally put the band on the map of progland. After three song-orientated albums the band took a new approach with by creating an album which is basically one 50-minute track. The slow-building, hypnotising rhythms with occassional bursts of energy and some classical violin interludes won over many new fans and the album reached number 1 in the German JFK sales charts where it stayed for two weeks.

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Knight Area - Under A New Sign

Three years ago Knight Area surprised a lot of people. This dutch formation's debut album The Sun Also Rises was a breath of fresh air in the style of symphonic giants such as IQ, Pendragon and Arena. The long awaited Under A New Sign continues in the same style and surpasses it's predecessor by far. This album represents symphonic rock as it was defined by the bands that created the genre.

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Puppet Show - Tale Of Woe

Although it’s been 10 years since their debut release, Puppet Show manage to cross that second album hurdle in style. Hailing from Northern California, they contrast no-nonsense rocking moments with refined acoustic parts. The end result is a sound that follows in the neo-prog tradition with several new twists that keeps it sounding fresh and highly listenable.

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Dominici - O3 A Trilogy ~Part 2

For Part 1 of his trilogy Dream Theater singer accompanied himself with just an acoustic guitar presenting a singer/songwriter album which was nice but forgettable. For the second installment Dominici targeted his most likely audience: the Dream Theater fans by joining forces with Italian prog metal band Solid Vision and coming with prog metal right up the alley of his former band. The result is a genuine prog metal masterpiece which not only gives Dream Theater a run for their money, but also draws heavy influence from bands like Queensrÿche and VandenPlas.

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Steve Unruh - The Great Divide

The multi-talented Steve Unruh unleashed his meisterwerk The Great Divide in February. The 36-minute title track proved to be a pinnacle of accomplishment, with an arrangement that is complex, exciting, engaging and totally astounding having been played and recorded by one man in a home studio. The rest of the album is no filler either with Attack, Retreat, Then Attack Again Of The AcoustiChromatic Pixies not only being the best song title of the year but also the best instrumental. Steve's next project is with his band Resistor whose debut album will be released next year and by all accounts sounds like it will be a classic.

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MARCH

Carptree - Insekt

Carptree is unique in their approach to music. Dark atmospheric music bringing a melancholic depressing view on the world. Insekt is even more dark and heavy than their previous work and not for the weak of mind or the impatient. This masterpiece does not show it's brilliance at first spin, but once this album is in your head it won't get out.

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The Rebel Wheel - Diagramma

This Canadian band's second album - and first 'proper' release - saw them blend a wide range of styles such as jazz fusion, electronica, pop, blues and of course good old fashioned prog to compelling and surprisingly cohesive effect, with the twenty plus minute title track something of a tour de force. Definitely a band to keep an eye on in the future.

Not Reviewed

The Reasoning - Awakening

Formed by ex-Magenta bassist Matthew Cohen, and featuring former Karnataka vocalist Rachel Jones, The Reasoning's debut album Awakening was a considerably rockier proposition than you might have guessed from the band member's past exploits. A quintessentially British sounding affair, the songwriting was strong throughout, whilst the band's ace-up-their-sleeve was the use of three high quality yet contrasting vocalists, combining regularly to produce some sublime three-part harmonies. The band have already proved themselves a potent force in the live arena, and work is well underway on the follow-up.

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Steve Thorne - Part Two: Emotional Creatures

The second album by Thorne and his impressive collection of proggy friends, featuring contributions by Nick D'Virgilio, Gavin Harrison, Tony Levin, Dave Meros, Pete Trewavas, Gary Chandler, John Mitchell, Geoff Downes and Martin Orford. The production is top-notch and the mood is darker and more adventurous, although vocal styles and song structures are comparable to what we heard on Part One.

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APRIL

The Gourishanker - 2nd Hands

This album could be the big surprise of 2007. The Gourishankar will definitely score high as newcomer and their debut album 2nd Hands can withstand the comparison with releases from established names. This album contains all the ingredients: complex structures, many tempo changes, long instrumental passages and the use of traditional instruments like violin and Saxophone. It is safe to say that this is the kind of music that exemplifies the progressive rock label, progressive rock among the best available today.

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Magic Pie - Circus Of Life

For their sophomore album, Norways Magic Pie went all out with a 45-minute epic that successful melded five relatively disparate sections into one long and thoroighly enjoyable piece. The band are starting to develop their own identity and with Circus of Life have booked their place in the list of prog bands to watch out for in the future.

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Redemption - The Origins Of Ruin

Viewed by many commentators as the best progressive metal band to emerge in the past few years, this, the band’s third album, is a more than adequate follow-up to their widely-acclaimed 2005 release The Fullness Of Time. Composer, guitarist and keyboard player Nick van Dyk continues his alliance with Fates Warning frontman Ray Alder and Agent Steel guitarist Bernie Versailles, for an album with monstrous riffing, clever melodies and an energy and confidence that most bands in the genre can only dream of. It was even enough to land them a US support slot with Dream Theater.

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Æon Spoke - Æon Spoke

Æon Spoke features two ex-members (guitarist/ vocalist Paul Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert) of seminal Tech Death Metallers Cynic. That bands sole album (1993’s Focus) stands as one of the most respected albums of the genre. If that puts you off then don’t worry because Æon Spoke sound absolutely nothing like Cynic. Following the band’s self-released) debut Above The Buried Cry, the musical ground that Masvidal and Reinert (now with guitarist Evo) now tread is far closer to Coldplay and Blackfield. Melodic, emotional, atmospheric rock, with an emphasis squarely on the song.

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MAY

Alex Argento - Ego

Alex Argento created quite a stir among fusion fans with his 2007 solo debut Ego. While Ego ranges from heavy to softer, groovier fusion, there is enough melody and structure to please even modest fans of the genre. Marco Sfogli, of James Labrie fame, masterfully handles guitar and helps make this something that stands high among the rest

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Dial - Synchronized

After cutting the musical bonds with his brother and Pain Of Salvation, bass player Kristoffer Gildenlöw hooked up with Liselotte ‘Lilo’ Hegt and Rommert van der Meer from Cirrha Niva fame to form their own band Dial. Their debut album is a very varied affair travelling through the outer reaches of alternative rock, pop, progressive rock and emotional music. Certainly progressive though! 

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Beardfish - Sleeping In Traffic: Part One

These young Swedes caused quite a stir in 2005 with the double album The Sane Day but the breakthrough came with Sleeping in Traffic, part 1. It’s an exciting album. There’s old school progressive rock with a prominent role for the Hammond organ. There are Zappa influences, beautiful ballads, a mad instrumental and even some blues. But above all, Sleeping in Traffic part 1, establishes band leader and songwriter Rikard Sjöblom as an incredible talent. We eagerly await the release of Sleeping in Traffic, part 2.

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Anekdoten - A Time Of Day

It took Anekdoten four years to come up with a follow up of 2003s Gravity. After this relatively light album they return to the darker sound of their earlier albums. The songs are not about flashy guitar solos or a lot of breaks but about atmosphere and trying to perfectly combine words and music. New on this album are the use of Moog and a guest on flute. A Time of Day is an album full of despair, longing and hope.

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Devin Townsend - Ziltoid The Omnicient

Having said a year back that he'd quit the music business, Devin Townsend thankfully went back on his word and returned with one of his finest efforts to date. Based around a bizarre storyline featuring a puppet alien's arrival on earth in search of the perfect cup of coffee, the sheer quality and diversity of the music Townsend has come up with to accompany this zany tale stops it from being a novelty item. The accompanying puppet shows, however, were probably an acquired taste...

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The Third Ending - The Third Ending

One of the bigger surprises of 2007. The Third Ending come from Tasmania (as we all know one of the well known progrock areas in the world). This is the bands first album, but it could well be their third or fourth album. This is one self assured sounding record full of great songs. Intelligent lyrics that are beautifully sung. As Mark Hughes said in his review “this album hits the spot, pushes all the buttons and keeps one's finger stabbing at the repeat button.” It’s the sort of progressive rock that could appeal to a wide audience of music loving people.

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JUNE

Amaran's Plight - Voice In The Light

Tasty-looking ‘supergroup’ project, featuring Gary Wehrkamp, guitarist, keyboardist and producer of long-running proggers Shadow Galley; ex-Royal Hunt and Silent Force vocalist DC Cooper; Spock's Beard drummer Nick D'Virgillio and Under The Sun bassist Kurt Barabas. It's not the first time Cooper and Wehrkamp have worked together, with DC appearing on Shadow Gallery's 1999 album Tyranny. The result this time, is a 78-minute concept album that tells of one man's search for answers following a near death experience. The concept was developed by writer J W Crawford who also contributed as musical director and lyricist. An epic musical journey that mixes the melodic heavy rock/metal of Silent Force, with the more relaxed orchestration of Shadow Gallery and a touch of Spock's Beard progginess.

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Ritual - The Hemulic Voluntary Band

Predictable is not a tag that sits easily with Swedish act Ritual as their previous three studio and one live album will testify. Prog, fusion, folk and hard rock are skilfully woven around an engaging story-telling style based on the ‘Moomin’ books by Finnish writer Tove Jansson. The epic A Dangerous Journey that concludes stands as the most accomplished piece to date from vocalist/guitarist Patrik Lundström and his compatriots.

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JULY

Phideaux - Doomsday Afternoon

Six albums in three years is an achievement for any band. To consistently improve on each release is simply remarkable. But this American collective, led by Phideaux Xavier, have done just that. Doomsday Afternoon, the second album in a trilogy, took the band to new heights with fantastic songs, beautiful arrangements and some gorgeous playing (ably assisted by members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra). Universally applauded this should be the breakthrough album. Confidence is riding high in the Phideaux camp, not many groups would fly several thousand miles with an entourage of 16 musicians to make their live debut, and the next album, a more stripped down affair entitled Infernal, is widely anticipated.

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SEPTEMBER

Big Big Train - The Difference Machine

Long before its release, Jem Godfrey of Frost* predicted that Big Big Train could be 2007 dark horse of prog on the basis on what he had heard of their album The Difference Machine. And right he was. The Difference Machine showed an enormous improvement. Consisting of three longer tracks and three short atmospheric pieces it was one of 2007 big surprises. With Perfect Cosmic Storm the album contained one of the best prog songs of 2007.
The album successfully combines old school prog with influences from modern bands such as Oceansize and Mew. On their website you can watch guest drummer Nick D’Virgillio putting down some drum parts for the follow up of The Difference Machine, English Electric.

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Poverty's No Crime - Save My Soul

With five albums to date, this German five-piece has always produced competent albums with several highlights but never quite enough class or consistency to break into the elite of ProgMetal bands. Always getting a better reception from fans with a propensity for power metal than those who like their progressive music with bucket loads of complex time changes and widdly solos, Poverty's No Crime provides an accessible listen. However having taken four years in creating this, their sixth studio release, this was seen as their final chance to escape from being seen as also-rans in the race for wider recognition.

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Root - Wooden Hill

David Kendall (aka Root) took two years to deliver Wooden Hill but it was worth the wait. Focusing heavily on the guitar, the characteristic Root melodies, harmonies and hook lines are present in abundance. With stacks of vocal overdubs and a clarity of recording that would be hard to better in even place like Abbey Road, Woden Hill is a fine addition to an already impressive back catalogue.

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OCTOBER

OCeansize - Frames

On their previous album Oceansize had flirted with commercialism; this time they decided, in their own words, "to hell with that!". Frames is as huge a sounding album as you would expect from the band's name, blending elements of post rock, indie, metal and the harder edged yet emotional prog championed by the likes of Anathema and Porcupine Tree to produce a heady and winning concoction. Prog fans have been slow to embrace the band but Frames seems to have finally changed all that.

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Sieges Even - Paramount

Whereas with The Art of Navigating By The Stars two years ago they made a strong “We are back” statement that no lover of good lyrical art-rock could miss, this time Sieges Even do not take us by surprise. With one more highly acclaimed release, they set the grounds for even more adventures: through the looking-glass and into their poetic universe. Paramount stabilises Sieges Even in the heart of current art-rock happenings. Or better, it puts them in the leading positions.

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Little Atlas - Hollow

Who said prog can’t be tuneful? Not Little Atlas. With each song around the 5 minute mark nothing outstays its welcome, combining confident melodies with moody instrumental passages. All the way from Miami Florida, this quartet has produced an impressive fourth album that ought to find widespread appeal both inside and outside the prog fraternity.

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Trion - Pilgrim

Trion, the trio of two members of Flamborough Head and one member of Odyssice, reunited four years after their stunning debut simply for the joy of making music. It transpires that none of the members were confident that they could match what they achieved with their debut yet managed to pull off a triumph with Pilgrim, a rather more laid back affair that adds a range of classic keyboard and piano to the sound of the mellotron.

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

The Road To DPRPoll 2007:

Part 1: The Decennial Poll

Part 2: The Usual Suspects

Send feedback to the DPRP team.


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