Review – Stuckfish – Days of Innocence – by John Wenlock-Smith

This might be one of the best new albums that I have had to pleasure to hear this year. Yes, it really is that impressive! The album has eight tracks, all above the five-and-a-half-minute mark and two over eight minutes.

No wonder this is attracting the interest of many prog fans for, in Stuckfish, we find a worthy blend of old school prog and classic rock, married together with a great vocalist in Phil Stuckey, who brings to mind a classic style, an excellent bass player (Phil Morey) and a fiery but tasteful guitarist in Ade Fisher. Together with drummer Adam Sayers and keyboard player Gary Holland, they make for a very tight and energetic team.

This is their third album written during the global layoff of 2021, which, as Ade says, was a better use of time than watching Netflix and chomping chocolate hobnobs and the results here can bear witness to that observation.

The album opens in a very Rush like vein with Age Of Renewal and its use of shifting time signatures which allows for some moody synth backing. Vocalist Phil Stuckey really performs well here with a strong clear tone that works well. There is a good synth/guitar interplay here too making the mid-section strong, just before Ade lets rip with a solo that takes the piece forward. Along with the great bass work on show, this is a great opener that will be a sure-fire winner live, seldom has seven minutes passed so quickly! The epic Days of Innocence follows, which features the nimble basswood of Phil Morey anchoring the song down. The track is a heartfelt one, a look back at childhood and the hope of a better future. The song is reflective and a touch maudlin, however it is certainly extraordinarily strong in tone. There’s great vocals too as Phil sings with passion and optimism for a star he has yet to reach. A very impressive track with good orchestration in the closing moments with great brass, unusual but effective and definitely memorable.

Painted Smile picks up the Rush baton once again with a chugging guitar riff that said band would have loved to employ. The song is about clowns and how their painted face often hides or masks their inner pains. This has great keyboards on it that create an aura of the circus with a suitable organ sound strong in the mix. Sounding sinister at times but creating and painting the setting wonderfully, this album makes a strong impression for all the right reasons and will surely appear in many bests of /end of the year’s lists, It will certainly be among my choices for that accolade, the track ends with a piano sound that evokes a silent film and concludes another fabulous track. The urgent guitar riff of Ade Fisher sees a segue into Game Changer, a track that flies out of the gate with style and punchy panache. This song properly rocks but does not forget to have melodies or dynamics that make this optimistic song stand out both musically and lyrically. I am really enjoying this album with its use of light and shade that works very well, as does the graceful guitar playing that leads the song on towards a marvellous rhythmic mid section which really makes an impact. Stuckfish have worked hard on this album, not only in the elegant material but also in the performances that are all highly impressive by any standard.

Thief In The Night is a great song about loss and the memories of a loved one that has gone. The track is very moving and is presented beautifully, with dignity and feeling. Phil’s voice is fantastic and really suited to the feeling of the song and making it my favourite on the album, sympathetically managed and beautifully written, it conveys perfectly what happens when a loved one passes on, glorious and magnificent in equal measures. Yearn is next and opens with a reverb laden piano that sets the tone for the song. With a trumpet evoking a smokey jazz club, it’s certainly very sultry and brooding sounding and has an epic chorus that really impacts. This is a slow burn of a track that creeps up on you and takes over, it’s truly that memorable. It reminds me of a Wishbone Ash song for some reason, must be the vocal inflections that it has. Wonderfully delicate and gracefully imagined and conceived, this is another great song that’s very well performed by all. A really impressive piece of music!

Nevermore is different as Phil sings in a Rob Halford sounding voice to significant effect. It is really distinctive to hear him singing in this manner and the song packs a punch to be sure, one of the shorter pieces but still a good listen. Different Ways closes the album in grand style, being one of the more blatantly progressive songs and one that gives room for the bands musical dexterity to shine through. With a great guitar solo from Ade and good support from all the group, this is a great album ending track.

So, there you have it, eight great tracks in one fine album from a band that are really on the rise. Get it while you can as it is utterly fantastic and definitely a highlight of the year so far!

Released 16th April, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

Days of Innocence | Stuckfish (bandcamp.com)

Review – Envy Of None – s/t – by John Wenlock-Smith

After the last date of the Rush ‘R40’ tour on 15th August 2015 in Los Angeles, Rush were at a crossroads, this was their final tour as they had agreed to bow out on a high note, seeking not to slump into trying to recapture the former glories, as has befallen many other groups over the years. Even the band themselves were unsure of what to do next or even if there would be a ‘next’ moment.

This all came sharply into focus again in January 2020 when Neil Peart lost his battle with brain cancer and, while the world quite rightly mourned his passing, Rush were effectively over. This left Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson in a quandary realising that anything they did would suffer comparison to the might of Rush.

So they did what they could cope with, Alex went fishing and valued his home life, Geddy wrote his memoirs (to be published this year) and both men struggled with the loss of their long term friend. They had both known about his illness yet the end still hit them hard, in addition they needed time to grieve him, plus we had various lockdowns and limitations on life due to covid.

Well, thankfully, that time has come to an end as Alex has now ventured back into the public eye once more by contributing his graceful, elegant guitar tones to a brand-new project called Envy Of None. It could not be any more removed from the progressive elements of Rush. Two of the songs were released by Lifeson on his own social media pages, namely Shadow and Spy House, which were intended to introduce the band to the public.

Now the album in full is out and, yes, it is something tasty indeed and different to what he has done before, for sure. Yet, even so, within its simpler shorter songs lie strands of Lifeson’s musical DNA. In just eleven short tracks you hear Alex revelling in playing music again and exorcizing his demons and his grief in the only way he knows, through music.

The album has elements of Pop, Rock, Emo and even electronica within its sounds, it certainly is hugely different and that is no bad thing. Take the opener for instance, I Never Said I Loved You, with a strong sequenced opening motif and the dreamy vocals of Mariah Wynne and steady bass of former Coney Hatch bassist Andy Curran driving the song along (the band used various session players to provide drum support). The sound is full and leaves room for each instrument to be clearly heard, in addition, it is a great little song. Sequencing plays a big part in the groups sound, this is all is sympathetically done and does not detract from everything that is going on.

Look Inside is a good example of how this all works together to create something exceptionally fine indeed. There is even a sampled muted trumpet playing in the last moments, a tremendous piece of music that is both imaginative and accomplished. Liar follows but this fails to hit the mark for me. Whilst being well crafted, it is a bit too busy for my liking and has too much layering to really click. Spy House has Lifeson unleashed and all over the track with an insistent riff threaded throughout it. It’s great to hear him in this vein and his solo is fabulous and free spirited. It is the Alex we all know and love to hear and a great moment in a very good track.

Dogs Life is another brooding, moody and slow burning number that builds in its intensity before breaking out into a busy section, this time the slow burn really works well for the track. This album is really a bit of a grower and more volume really helps in this case, making it one of the best tracks so far to these ears. Kabul Blues follows with it Far Eastern sounding synths and delicate guitar lines woven through its grooves. This sounds very exotic and Middle Eastern and quite different to what has gone before, great bass lines from Andy Curran making this another winning track. Old Strings is the album’s longest track at just over five minutes as Mariah sings of lost memories, lost opportunities, and stolen moments. Again, this is a slow burner of a song with subtle but effective dynamics which all combines to make an impressive song with sensitive playing from all parties, marvellous stuff.

Dumb works really well, a strong back beat drives the song along with its great sequenced sounds and a very eighties sounding drum pattern really kicking it out and providing much drive to the song. Penultimate song Enemy is built on hypnotic synthesiser lines and settings that work to a  pronounced effect with strong performances. Growling synth sounds and fabulous dynamics make this is a great song and, again, volume reveals its intricacies beautifully. This leads us to the final piece, Western Sunset, which is an acoustic guitar tribute to Neil Peart. Alex spent a lot of time at Neil’s pacific home and, whilst enjoying a beer, looked out at the shoreline at sunset. This memory was the one that inspired this delicate, brief piece of musical imagery. Ironic really that this should feature but it closes things for Alex. So, as such, it earns it is place here as a tribute to his dearly departed friend.

This album gains in stature the more you play it and it certainly is a very worthy collection of songs. The slow burn of these tracks creep up on you as they reveal their intricacies. I guess that only time will tell if the band continues, like they plan to. What sounds they explore next time remains to be seen, however, for now, this will do very nicely thank you.

Released 8th April, 2022

Order here:

Envy Of None (lnk.to)

Review – Stewart Clark – Journeys – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Journeys’ is the new album from UK based musician Stewart Clark and it’s certainly an interesting concept and listening experience. Stewart was recently commenting about his inability to get people interested in writing a review of his work.

When I read this I contacted Stewart and offered to write a review for him. It must be incredibly frustrating to drum up any interest from prog fans who will happily shell out for the 16th remix or extended version of an album they already have that is 40 years old but has been slightly tweaked or updated by someone whose aunt knew the bassist’s mother over 30 years ago.

Now, I like a good remaster or upgrade as much as the next prog fan but, really, why do we tend to gloss over the smaller acts who are really trying to break into an already full pond? People like Stewart who makes music because he wants to and does it all on a miniscule budget, on a very much ‘do it yourself manner’, but who is really making something that appeals but often fails to capture the wider public interest.

It’s certainly not the music’s fault, I suggest it is the fact that the bigger acts grab the lions share of the activities and the column inches leaving mere scraps for the rest, highly unfair but that’s how it sadly is. I myself see that some bands get lots of exposure whilst other get little or none and it’s the same with gigs, a big name might get bigger crowds but smaller artists are lucky if they can get a handful of paying punters attending. I know covid hasn’t helped but it was bad even before that, this malaise and apathy goes back years and years.

Anyway, enough of that, ‘Journeys’ is a fine listen, opening with the gentle but gripping Snaefellisbaer (The Abandoned Icelandic Road Trip) to kick off proceedings. The song is about a road trip that Stewart and his wife attempted to take in 2012.  Unfortunately, they were beaten by the sheer volume of ice and snow that made the destination unreachable at that time. The track has some very jazzy saxaphone from Mark Norton and lovely swirling organ from Tom Potten (which I think is used to show the northern lights), it’s followed by some heavy guitar riffery from Kerry Mountain, all intertwined with ethereal vocals from Catherine Potten, before returning to Eric Bouillette’s excellent piano motif repeated in the songs outro.

I Wished They’d Stayed follows and is a song dedicated to a former band mate who died. In the track Stewart recalls the good times they spent together, however the song is not maudlin but merely reflects that this is all a part of life’s journey. There’s No Place Like You is about trying to get back to someone again but being frustrated in doing so. This has bass from Billy Sherwood of Yes fame on it and he does his best Chris Squire impression to give this song some great dynamics in the process. This is a very fine piece and is great musically with its superb synth and bass interplay.

I Remember The Age Of Steam opens with train sounds and a rolling rhythm that emulates train movements while a lone harmonica wails admirably in the background, evoking a hobo’s journey. It’s rather evocative really and certainly appealing, I can see the Big Big Train passengers really taking this song to heart as it strikes or touches many reference points in its grooves, especially the steam effects. Let Me Belong has a strong riff and swagger to it, rather muscular in fact, and it’s theme is about being part of something. There’s a good, fluid but fiery guitar solo and some fine keyboards enhancing the track gracefully which make this another winning song.

On A Leaf, On A Stream is very delicate with gently picked guitar and a good supporting bass line adding depth to the instrumental track. Add in some graceful yet urgent guitar from Sempano Semzedah and this short atmospheric piece scores highly. Final track Travelling Through Hyperspace is another mainly instrumental piece with crazy synths and urgent drums and great dynamics that give it some edge.

In short this almost concept album is about journeys and destinations and is a really underrated and yet highly rewarding trip. Even if the mainstream won’t give it room, I will and I hope that you will too.

Released February 18th, 2022

Order from bandcamp here:

Journeys | Stewart Clark (bandcamp.com)

Review – Asia In Asia Live At The Budokan Arena, Tokyo, December 1983 – by John Wenlock-Smith

The history of Asia is an often complex, involved and even a troubled one as the back story to this latest instalment in the Asia canon testifies. This latest release in band’s history is the then ground breaking satellite broadcast, live from Tokyo’s legendary Budokan theatre on 9th December 1983. This was also the first live video broadcast by MTV, however there was a problem in that, weeks earlier, after lacklustre sales of their hastily recorded follow up album saw it peak at number 67 on the Billboard chart, as opposed to the colossal sales of the band’s debut ‘Asia’ (1982).

Not only had ‘Alpha’ failed to match their debut’s success, the band themselves were also unhappy with the album’s mix and also the haste in which they had been ushered back to the studio to record it. On top of all that Asia were struggling internally with tensions between members, namely John Wetton and, well, anyone really! The success of the debut had hit John hardest as he was unaccustomed to the level of celebrity success had bought, John was also drinking heavily and this was affecting his performances with the ‘Alpha’ tour being particularly affected. So much so that latter dates were pulled. All of these frustrations reached a head and the band’s Management and label demanded a change be made and so John was duly dismissed..

The difficulty was that Asia were scheduled to do the MTV gig but had no lead singer. Time to call in a favour…

Carl Palmer called his old colleague Greg Lake from his ELP days and asked him for his help, Greg consented but was unfamiliar with Asia’s music and had to rely on a teleprompter for the actual show. The band started rehearsals in London with a view to being competent enough for the show. In fact, they played a rehearsal show the evening before at the Budokan to evaluate everything out and to make sure it all worked. The gig went off well and was a success technically, the show was released on video and laser disc but was then largely forgotten and subsequently overtaken by other events in the Asia world. It is now forty years since that show and the film has been overhauled for a re-release. This set includes vinyl and CDs of the show and the rehearsal show and a Blu-Ray of the show and, also, a version of the original laser disc cut of the show.

The sound has been remixed and remastered for premium sound and there is new artwork for the set and lovely it is too. The draw here will be this much improved sound and, when coupled with the previously unreleased rehearsal disc, this should be a rather good selling point. In fact, the sound is exceptionally good and clear and you can hear the band really giving it some oomph! In addition, you can see this for yourself t in the accompanying Blu-Ray, where you can enjoy the energy of show and witness all the members of Asia really playing their hearts out, especially Geoff Downes impressive keyboard set up and his antics during the show.

Greg Lake proves to be an exceptionally good fill in for the departed John Wetton and his bass is muscular when needed. It’s good to see him this way as his Asia tenure was short lived, one that sadly failed to bear any additional fruit. There are no bonus features, as such, and a documentary detailed in the booklet does not appear to be there. Even so, this set has merit and it reintroduces a not insignificant global event that was unique and ground-breaking in many ways.

The band were on form, and it is good to have this record of this event in its remixed and remastered glory once again. The tracks are from the debut with a few select tracks from the ‘Astra’ album. With both Wetton and Lake no longer with us, this set gives opportunity to view that strange moment of musical history once more and I, for one, am extremely glad to be able to do so.

Released 10th June, 2022.

Pre-order here:

Asia – Live At The Budokan, Tokyo, 1983 [VINYL] (lnk.to)

Interview With Steve Howe by John Wenlock-Smith

In this piece I talk to Steve Howe about about both the forthcoming Yes UK live dates, why they are not playing ‘Relayer’ this time around and about the ‘Asia in Asia’ box set that is due out in June.

John Wenlock-Smith – Good afternoon Steve, are you keeping well?

Steve HoweYes I am, thank you.

JWS – You are in Devon today then?

SHYes, in a secret location! I moved here some 26 years ago from London and, whilst I still live in London, I visit as much as I can as my studio is here.

JWS – Fair enough. I have spent many happy times in Devon. It is a lovely area.

SHYes, well I certainly like the slower pace as opposed to the madness of London!

JWS – So the tour that you are doing in June, how come you are not going to do the ‘Relayer’ album, as originally announced and intended?

SHWell, with it being a shorter run of dates, as we cancelled the European leg, it’s now just the ten shows in the UK. We felt that it was better to postpone that particular album, especially as ‘Close To The Edge’ is 50 years old this year, and perform that in its entirety instead. We will also do a few other favourite songs and some of ‘The Quest’ album, although I’m not saying which we will play, keep it under wraps as it were. 

So that is the plan now, and save ‘Relayer’ till next year when we can give it the treatment that it deserves, so we chose to concentrate on playing CTTE this time around, to give it a good airing and celebrate the anniversary in this manner.

JWS – Yes, because you have had Patrick Moraz along for some shows doing ‘Gates of Delirium’ ?

SHWe had Patrick play Soon with us on a tour that Tony Kaye had joined us for, the celebratory tours. We like doing that sort of thing, although we have no plans on that as yet, not that to say that that it’s out of the window but, at the moment, we are concentrating on getting back out on the road after three years enforced time away.

Also, that is why coming back after 3 years away, we are doing what we are comfortable with and can do to the standard that is required and that Yes fans warrant and demand.

JWS – Yes, I can understand that way of thinking, plus it leaves the way open for a further tour with ‘Relayer’ being featured.

SHExactly…

JWS – I am glad that tracks from ‘The Quest’ will be featured, as I really enjoyed that album. I thought The Ice Bridge was exceptionally fine, reminiscent of Fanfare For The Common Man in the keyboard sounds, and also your solo Album ‘Love Is’, with Jon Davison on vocals.

SHThank you.

JWS – Well I thought it was a good set of songs, well performed.

SHYes, Jon did a wonderful job on that, didn’t he?

JWS – I also really enjoyed the ‘Homebrew 7’ album.

SHThank you, that was quite different for me in that it did not have the usual Homebrew story but was mostly unreleased tracks and ideas that I was able to work to fruition and completion. It was a retro album of music that was unreleased so thank you again for appreciating that.

JWS – I enjoy listening to latest music, especially music that you have released, so what are the chances of having your two original Atlantic albums (‘Beginnings’ and ‘The Steve Howe Album’) being re-released again?

SHWarner’s, Rhino, Atlantic or whoever have been so nice to me, they are officially releasing those albums, so I will investigate that. I think it’s marvellous to be part of the story of Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic label founder).

Howe Sound, the label that releases many of my albums, is quite diverse really and I feel comfortable with what they release for me, plus I like to do things differently and not be stuck in a treadmill way of things.

JWS – I do not blame you, variety is the spice of life, or so they say.

SHIndeed.

JWS – Now Asia, that new Boxset (‘Asia in Asia’) that is coming out in June (10th) is very impressive…

SHBMG have released the Reunion albums, with Fantasia releasing the DVD but this one is even nicer. That is, I especially like the diligence, I like detail anyway and this set really has an elevated level of detail to it, making it worthy of attention. When we did those shows some forty odd years ago, Greg (Lake) was really inspiring in that he was singing John’s (Wetton) parts, playing his bass lines too and doing it all with dignity and aplomb.

The Asia story is all told within those sets really, the two original albums, ‘Go’ and ‘Asia In Asia’ and then the years where Geoff was holding the banner, keeping the flame alive as it were, with various people drifting in and out including myself. Then there’s the reunion and subsequent albums and tours, it’s all in those albums and the ‘Asia In Asia’ especially shows a period where Greg really rose to the occasion magnificently as the set testifies in such a great way.

JWS – The only criticism I have, and it is a minor one really, is that, in the booklet, it mentions a documentary filmed around that time in which each member traces their Asia journey and, although mentioned, I cant see it on the Blu-Ray?

SHWell, I thought it was there, but I will investigate that and see. Although Blu-Rays are notorious for not being easy to find things on, I know that from experience, so I will check into that for sure.

JWS – I agree that Greg did an outstanding job. This is borne out in the remixed audio on the CD’s where he sings, albeit in a lower register on some tracks, but in a very accomplished manner and his bass playing is equally as inspiring too.

SHWhen I heard the audio for the mix, it was good until we got to the last two tracks, Heat Of The Moment and Sole Survivor, where they sounded awful. So I took it up with the label and they said Steve’s really on the ball, those two tracks hadn’t been remixed. I insisted that they were brought up to the same standard and I’m glad to say that they did just that and now they sound fantastic.  

JWS – Good, I am very much looking forward to seeing you in Manchester on the tour.

SHGood, well I love the Bridgewater hall, I played a solo concert there several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It reminded me of those early shows where I learnt my craft, like the one when I played support to Delaney and Bonnie along with Eric Clapton and George Harrison etc, remarkable times and music.

JWS – Have you heard Geoff’s Downes Braide Association stuff at all?

SHYes, I have heard that it is an exciting outlet for his music.

JWS – Plus Roger Dean participates in the artwork for that.

SH – Yes, well Roger is a big part of the Yes story, he will be on the tour too.

JWS – Well Steve, my time has gone, so may I just thank you for your time today and I will hopefully see you in Manchester next month.

SH – Thank for talking to me and for your interest in my music and of Yes too, thank you John.

Order the Asia boxset here:

Asia – Live At The Budokan, Tokyo, 1983 [VINYL] (lnk.to)

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead Announce New Quadraphonic Sound Studio Album XI: Bleed Here Now Due out 15th July via InsideOutMusic 

Austin’s …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead announce their first quadraphonic surround sound studio album – XI: Bleed Here Now– due out 15th July 2022 via InsideOutMusic in Europe & Dine Alone Records in North America. The new LP is their 11th, was produced by Trail’s own Conrad Keely and Jason Reece alongside Charles Godfrey who also produced 2020’s X: The Godless Void and Other Stories, and was mastered by Scott Sedillo and KamranV at Bernie Grundman MasteringXI: Bleed Here Now is QUARK encoded to play in both stereo and Regular Matrix quadraphonic sound. Along with the news, Trail of Dead is releasing lead single “No Confidence” today b/w “Salt In Your Eyes” – listen via your preferred streaming service and pre-order the album here: https://AndYouWillKnowUsByTheTrailOfDead.lnk.to/XIBleedHereNow

XI: Bleed Here Now follows January 2020’s X: The Godless Void and Other Stories – an album that also marked the band’s 25th year together. Trail of Dead were supposed to spend 2020 touring with their newly assembled five-piece live lineup in support of X and celebrating their career milestone, but were sidelined by the pandemic. After the shock wore off and months of very little to do, they decided to start working on a new album. Looking to recapture the Golden Age of rock and give the listener a more immersive experience, they connected with KamranV who has been working with spatial sound since the early 2000’s and introduced them to QUARK – a plug-in that makes creating an album in quadraphonic sound possible. While this takes place during the mixing stage, the intent led to broader recording decisions, for example setting up the mics with the idea they could mix them into four channels when tracking Tosca String Quartet for the live string arrangements on the opening theme “Our Epic Attempts” and the string performance on “Millennium Actress,” which also features the band’s old friend Amanda Palmer. When doing the vocals for “Growing Divide” they brought in Spoon’s Britt Daniel, with Keely adding, “…we thought how cool it would be to have our friend Britt Daniel come in to sing one of the harmonies, so that we could have four different voices separated out between two stereo mixes.

 XI: Bleed Here Now bridges the gap between artistry and technology, giving listeners an immersive and transportive experience. “Art has a role to play in the upcoming decade(s): it needs to point humanity towards solutions. Our hope is that by expanding the ways we listen and hear; we expand our own inner (my parents would say spiritual) potential for the problem-solving to come,” commented Keely. As with all Trail albums, Keely created the album art, this time inspired by Jeremiah Chiu’s design for Suzanne Ciani’s 2018 LIVE Quadraphonic LP – the first quadraphonic vinyl release in more than 30 years. Read the album bio written by Trail’s own Conrad Keely HERE 

Listen to “No Confidence” and “Salt In Your Eyes” and preorder and pre-save the July 15th LP XI: Bleed Here Now here: https://AndYouWillKnowUsByTheTrailOfDead.lnk.to/XIBleedHereNow 

XI: Bleed Here Now will be available as a Limited CD+Blu-ray Mediabook (including the album as a 4.0 Surround Sound Mix) & Standard CD Jewelcase, both available on the 15th July. The Gatefold 2LP+CD edition will be released on the 30th September.

VLMV RETURN WITH NEW TRACK ‘STEADY THYSELF’ – AMBIENT POST-ROCK PROJECT TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM ‘SING WITH ABANDON’ THIS SUMMER 

VLMV have returned with their first new music since 2018 with ‘Steady Thyself’ and announced their third album ‘Sing With Abandon’, scheduled for release in August. The follow up to the acclaimed ‘Stranded, Not Lost’, this new album is the result of years of collaboration, experimentation and crafting the music and sounds that make up VLMV.

 An ambitious yet concise album, ‘Sing With Abandon’ was born as songwriter and producer Pete Lambrou explored navigating life in the pandemic, multiple lockdowns and a country deciding to break up with its loved ones. Lyrically focused on feelings of isolation and separation, from our shared collective human experience to the deeply personal and everything in between, ‘Sing With Abandon’ touches on the isolation found within the communal experience of a country locked down and in crisis. 

To mark the announcement of this new album, VLMV have shared ‘Steady Thyself’ – The first look at what’s to come, ‘Steady Thyself’ is a soaring and captivating instrumental, centred on a delicate piano arrangement, a tantalising glimpse at the compelling sonic universe VLMV have created on their third outing. 

Formed in early 2015  by songwriter & producer Pete Lambrou (Codes In The Clouds, Monsters Build Mean Robots), VLMV released their debut mini album via Fierce Panda Records in August 2015, along with ‘Remixes & Reworkings’, a digital overhaul of their esteemed debut shortly after.  Described as “a beam of light through a dark, cold night” By Lauren Laverne, VLMV shared the follow up,  ‘Stranded, Not Lost, in 2018, earning a nomination at the Prog Awards alongside critical acclaim.  

Joined live by long time collaborator and fellow Code In The Clouder Ciaran Morahan, VLMV deploy loop stations, multiple delay pedals, piano and strings to create a slow-moving, high-flying soundscape of luscious gravitas. 

Hailing from London, the duo have received widespread praise for both their records and their incredible live show thanks to heavy touring in the UK and Europe. VLMV have taken to the stage at ArcTanGent, Dunk! Festival, Portals Festival, Post In Paris and many more. 

 ‘Sing With Abandon’ will be released on August 19th via Nice Weather For Airstrikes and can be pre-ordered now

‘Steady Thyself’ is available now

Pete Lambruo on ‘Sing With Abandon’:

“The album has been a long process for us after delays with session musicians and studio restrictions. We ended up going back and forth; writing and rewriting; taking a step back and coming at it from different angles. ‘Steady Thyself’ was actually written as a synth sequence in its first inception. It was very different to the final piano version after PLENTY of tweaks and rewrites. It’s not a quick overnight record, it’s taken time and I think that’s reflected in the album itself. It’s something to completely immerse yourself in.”

The Fierce And The Dead – Wonderful released on 6th May via Spencer Park Music

The Fierce And The Dead release their first single in 4 years on May 6th, with (for the first time) vocals from bassist Kevin Feazey. It features sax from Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey/Spiritualized/Faust) and comes from upcoming fourth album News From The Invisible World, to be released later in 2022. The Single artwork is by Mark Buckingham (Neil Gaiman/DC Comics/Fables).

The Fierce And The Dead formed in London in 2010, with all 4 members originally from Rushden, Northants, previously an instrumental band they mix in elements from psychedelic rock, old metal records, garage rock, post-rock, prog and shoegaze.

They released their breakthrough 3rd album The Euphoric in 2018 via BEM records which was Classic Rock Magazine’s Prog Album Of The Year and 8th in Prog Magazine’s critics choice. Prog magazine included them in their 100 Prog Icons and they have appeared ranked highly in the magazine’s Readers Poll for multiple years and categories, although the band have never considered themselves to be deliberately prog. Pre-COVID headline shows in Manchester and London sold out months in advance. 


They have been championed by Stuart Maconie on BBC 6 Music and Steve Davis on his Interesting Alternative Show and played with Hawkwind, Big Business, Dave Lombardo, Crippled Black Phoenix, Evil Blizzard and Monkey 3 and at festivals in the USA, Europe, and the UK including Freak Valley, Arctangent, HRH, Kozfest, Ramblin Man and Rosfest. They have released 3 studio albums alongside 4 EPs and 3 live albums.

Pre-save the single here:

Wonderful by The Fierce & the Dead – DistroKid

Review – Gustaf Ljunggren with Skúli Sverrisson – Floreana

“When you can no longer count the peaceful moments in your day, and life becomes a wonderful place of clear thoughts and calm. You know things are as right as they should be.”
― Ron Baratono

Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer Gustaf Ljunggren has teamed up with Icelandic Bass Guitar player and composer Skúli Sverrisson (Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bill Frisell, Blonde Redhead ) to create an album that wishes to offer the listener private musical spaces to dwell in for a while.

Ljunggren’s musical language is clear, gentle, and melodic, and the pieces chosen for this album all share a sense of weaving past and future together into the present. Gustaf Ljunggren reflects about the music on ‘Floreana’: “I listened inwards, and it sounded like this. Melodies came to the surface, and I chose to say ‘yes’ to them, embrace them, carry them forward. My musical partner on this album, Skúli Sverrisson, has been with me throughout this process; embracing the music with both profound dedication and artistic boldness.”

‘Floreana’ is one of those rare things, something unexpected that turns out to be something quite wonderful. Eleven beautiful pieces of music that engender a feeling of calm and peacefulness. The whole album just brings harmony, tranquility and serenity to you, no matter how stressed or worked up you are. You could call it modern classical or ethereally cinematic, I just think it is possibly the most graceful collection of instrumental tracks I’ve ever heard.

Highlights abound, celestial Leading Somewhere, the soothing pastoral charms of Kongens Mark, the haunting and wistful Bottomless Siestas and the spine tingling exquisiteness of closing track Vi Overlever, every track is a perfect moment of reflection and contemplation. The music is slightly spiritual in nature and puts you in touch with your inner being.

Philosophical and meditative, ‘Floreana’ will leave you in place of utter calm and leave you ruminating on life, the universe and just about everything. It’s as much about the spaces between the notes as the notes themselves and the state of mind that your are left in. To me, it is one of the surprises of the year so far and an album that I implore you to listen to at least once, trust me, it will be worth it…

Released May 13th, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

Gustaf Ljunggren with Skúli Sverrisson – Floreana | Gustaf Ljunggren (bandcamp.com)

Review – Last Flight To Pluto – Random Karma, Fate And Destiny

‘Random Karma, Fate And Destiny’ is the third album from Last Flight To Pluto. The band, led by singer/songwriter Alice Freya and drummer/songwriter Darren Joseph, are joined on the album by longtime guitarists Jack Parry and Ryan Barnard, with appearances from bassist Ed Rees and Son Of Man guitarist George Jones.

A riotously enjoyable mix of rock, metal, pop, indie and a tasty slice of rock infused prog, this latest album is a hugely impressive listen. Alice’s vocals are quite unique and she is able to lend her superb voice perfectly to the melting pot of genres employed by the band on the record.

There’s a hard, funky edge to the guitar and rhythm section on opener Stop Yourself From Turning Into Dust and second track Some Of Us, both fast paced, high energy rockers with a truly infectious feel to them. The guitar playing, especially on the latter track, is striking and pretty superb and adds to an octane fuelled introduction to the album. We’re Being Rewired, with its slow burning opening, adds a darkly delicious feel to the music, Alice’s velvety vocals cloaking a honey soaked touch of menace. This track really reminds me of Magenta, especially their album ‘The Twenty Seven Club’, as it opens up into something much more involving and complex, a gorgeous piece of music.

Around The Corners is almost balladic in its composition, a sun soaked, wistful and sepia tinged song where Alice’s ethereal vocal compliments the delicate piano perfectly. Contemplative and dreamy before breaking out into an uplifting chorus, it really salves the soul and calms the nerves. Thunderous riffs and crashing drums signal the hard rocking dynamics of the excellent White Noise, a classic rock infused song that invokes the spirit of the late 70’s and early 80’s, there’s some seriously good songwriting on show here and, as you delve deeper into the album, it just gets better and better. There’s a potent and staccato intro to Feed The Machine, another fine piece of music that sees the band delivering an uptempo, blues and soul infused, performance.

There are pop sensibilities at show on Any News but Alice’s silken vocals and the elegant musicianship lift it above the mere norm. Quite an emotive track that wears its heart on its sleeve and has a slightly melancholic overtone. There’s a thoughtful and sombre mood to Stay Out Of My Head, a reflective yearning in the vocals imbuing it with a slightly sorrowful edge. The guitar then kicks in and Alice’s voice takes on a distinctly intimidating timbre to finish the song in a very enigmatic way. The album closes with the driving tones of Game Over, a powerful tune that’s full of mystery and subtlety. The primeval guitar riffs and thunderous drums delivering a prog edged piece of sublime classic rock that just delivers on every level.

‘Random Karma, Fate And Destiny’ is a highly accomplished release that shows a band reaching maturity and the height of their powers. Excellent songwriting combined with outstanding musicianship gives something subtlety different to everything else out there and makes this an album that you really should seek out.

Released 10th May, 2022.

Pre-order the album from White Knight Records here:

Last Flight To Pluto (whiteknightshop2.co.uk)