Category Archives: Music

Universal Migrator


Universal Migrator 1: The Dream Sequencer (2000)

Universal Migrator2: Flight of the Migrator (2000)

The first album is the better album and remind me of Pink Floyd (in a good way). It also  has better compositions than the second. UM2 is a heavier sounding album although some of the songs are by-the-numbers heavy rock.

Review courtesy John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, May 2000
The story begins in the 22nd century. The final devastating war of 2084 that was foretold on The Final Experiment album, has indeed come to pass and has destroyed all life on Earth, making it completely uninhabitable. The only survivors of the war were the colonists on the planet Mars, who watched the destruction of their home-world from afar. The few descendants of those colonists are now all that is left of the human race.

To combat the dreariness of life on Mars, the Mars colonists have constructed a fantastic machine called The Dream Sequencer. This machine creates a form of hypnosis which allows the colonists to return to their childhood and even to their former lives. Both albums tell the story of what one Mars colonist encounters while piloting The Dream Sequencer.

The CD The Dream Sequencer has a soft and atmospheric feel. This CD follows one Mars colonist back in time as he reincarnates through different personas all the way back to the first man on Earth using The Dream Sequencer machine. Each persona will be presented by a different singer in each song, however all of the songs are seen from the perspective of the same Mars colonist.

Progressive World Review :
The album’s opener “The Dream Sequencer” makes me think of Disney’s “Space Travel” journey what with all these different sounds and spacey atmospheres. The song evolves into pure Pink Floyd, getting very close to “Welcome To The Machine” and boy isn’t Arjen’s sitar solo a dead-ringer for Dave Gilmour! We also have to welcome some splendid Mini-Moog here, the first of a long batch of outstanding analogue solos! The doomy voice of Tiamat’s Johan Edlund blends well with the young, high pitched voice of After Forever’s Floor Jansen in “My House On Mars.” The musical backing lifts this song to a very bombastic whole ending almost in pure classical style. In “2084” Lana Lane looks back at what happened when all life on earth was destroyed. Erik adds some nice rhythmic touches by means of his swirling Hammond. The flanger on the guitar works overtime extra emphasizing the floating atmosphere of this song.

I’ve already told you about the number of superb sounding synths. Well, in the intro for “One Small Step” you are treated to some outstanding synths before acoustic guitars smooth the way for the warm voice of ex-Kayak singer Edward Reekers, who by now has become one of the loyal singers that appear on Ayreon releases. Edward sings “one small step for man but a giant leap for mankind,” but with this album I would dare to say “one small step for Ayreon but a giant leap for music!” What’s strong on these new Ayreon albums is the fact that, once again, Arjen Lucassen uses the help of a huge selection of different singers yet, uses a small number of people for the musical nucleus and uses the same backing voices. Towards the end of “One Small Step,” Arjen’s slide guitar again highlights his all-time love for Pink Floyd! The repetitive bass line in the intro for “The Shooting Company Of Captain Frans B. Cocq” comes very close to the work of Alan Parsons, but as soon as the classical guitar sets in it has to be unmistakably the work of Ayreon. In Mouse Arjen has found the ideal John Lennon clone and, as Arjen has always been a keen fan of the Beatles, this song works perfectly well with the unique timbre of Mouse’s voice.

When Arjen visited Oscar Holleman’s studio, the latter was producing an upcoming young band called Krezip who have just delivered their debut album Nothing Less on the Dutch wing of Warner, apparently a must for fans of Guano Apes and/or Skunk Anansie. Arjen was so overwhelmed by Krezip’s singer that he immediately asked the seventeen old Jacqueline Govaert to sing the soft centred “Temple Of The Cat.” The medieval atmosphere of “Carried By The Wind” is sung by Arjen himself, whilst his guitar solo intertwines with nice synth and acoustic guitar. Ever since he heard Threshold and invited Damien Wilson over to sing on Into The Electric Castle, Arjen has been very fanatic about every move Damien makes. Over the years Damien’s involvement in the world of musical has given him more “body” which can clearly be heard throughout “And The Druids Turn To Stone.” Again this is a very ballad-like structure, emphasizing once again the acoustic simplicity. The production is very open giving all of the sparse instruments all the room to experiment and shine. Rob Snijders’ soulful drumming blends very well with the Hammond sound.

From the moment the mellotron kicks off and the classical ensemble enters the musical arena you know “The First Man On Earth” will be very Beatles-like. In steps Neal Morse to enhance that Beatles feel and what’s more, his ability to create sing-a-long tunes once again proves to be all over this piece. “The First Man On Earth” is indeed a song that is fit for daytime radio (although in edited format) and cello and horns are added in the same fashion as Sir George Martin would have added his knowledge to the Lennon/McCartney classics. It is certainly one of the highlights on this disc, and a song that will certainly please Arjen, being an avid Beatles-fan himself. Strangely enough, Erik Norlander is more into Electric Light Orchestra; but wasn’t Jeff Lynne very much influenced by the Liverpool foursome? The album closes with a reprise of “The Dream Sequencer” adding more Pink Floyd touches to what has become one hell of an artistic merit. This album certainly has all of the ingredients many of you are looking for in a prog album, an album that you’ll certainly end up buying along with the other Ayreon release Flight Of The Migrator. Siamese twins anyone?

Arjen Lucassen – electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, analogue synthesizers, Hammond, Mellotron and additional keyboards
Erik Norlander (Ritual Symphony, Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane) – analogue synthesizers, piano, vocoder, Hammond and additional keyboards
Rob Snijders (Celestion Season) – drums

Synth solos:

Erik Norlander – (Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane) on 1, 4, 6
Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon) on 3


Johan Edlund (Tiamat) on 2
Floor Jansen (After Forever) on 2
Lana Lane – on 3, 6 and voice on 1
Edward Reekers (Kayak) on 4
Mouse (Tuesday Child) on 5
Jacqueline Govaert (Krezip) on 7
Arjen Lucassen on 8
Damian Wilson (Threshold, Landmarq and now playing the role of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar)
Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic) on 10

Backing vocals:

Mark McCrite (Rocket Scientists) on 10
Lana Lane on 4, 5

Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, January 2001
Told in two parts, Ayreon’s Universal Migrator tale is a musical journey through time and space. Disc one, The Dream Sequencer is the symphonic prog side of Arjen Lucassen’s theme, where the music often takes on very Pink Floyd-like atmospheres. “My House On Mars” sounds, at times, like it could have easily been on The Wall but for some of the lyrical content; vocals here are by Johan Edlund (Tiamat) and Floor Jansen (After Forever). Except for the vocal-less solo passages, the track is somewhat plodding, moving just a bit to slowly. Perhaps it’s Edlund’s treated vocals that bother me a little bit about this track, though Jansen’s are clear and lilting. With the opening track, “The Dream Sequencer,” we get spacey keyboard themes laying a foundation for Lucassen’s guitar solos and synth melodies.

Like on previous Ayreon releases, there are guest musicians and vocalist each telling a part of the story. The vocalists whose performances stand out for me are Lana Lane, Damien Wilson and Neal Morse. In fact, the Morse/Erik Norlander/Lucassen penned “The First Men On Earth” contains more than a little element of Spock’s Beard, not just because of Morse’s recognizable voice, but also in something about the arrangement and delivery – just a bit off-kilter. Which also tells you that there is also a strong Beatles-esque feel to this track, too…including some brass that made me think of Sgt. Pepper’s. Oddly enough, I think of the Flower Kings, too, and think that this is what I was expecting from Transatlantic.

Lane’s haunting vocals grace “2084” and “Dragon On The Sea,” tracks 3 and 6 respectively. What a great voice! Rich, warm, full-bodied…makes you wonder what she’d do with the phone book, ya know; each address would echo in your mind… It is also Lane who first guides us into the story, as she voices the Universal Migrator program/contraption.

“One Small Step,” track four, reminded me a little bit of Rush’s own “Countdown” and not just because you can hear “space chatter” in the background. There is a driving, throbbing beat to it – perhaps mimicking that very countdown. But, I also thought of Tangerine Dream because of the long synth intro. Edward Reekers voices this track, a man’s impressions about the 1969 Moon landing (and Lana provides some backing “ahhs,”). There are parts here where I also thought of “Comfortably Numb”…if it been on Dark Side Of The Moon. Can’t really explain that except that there are pulsing synths and percussion that hint at Dark Side…. We also get some parping keys from Norlander, another emotional and soaring solo from Lucassen, and heavenly vocal accents from Lane. Reeker’s is another vocalist who got a very, very listenable voice, smooth and very warm.

Almost moving away from Floydian musiscapes, we get “The Shooting Company Of Captain Frans B. Cocq,” and Bobo is right about Mouse (Tuesday Child) sounding like John Lennon. But more than that, his delivery and the keyboards here make a very slight reference to “Strawberry Fields.” A guitar phrase hints at “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” And yet there is no getting away from the Floydian guitar solos (not that I want to) … there are also moments where I thought of “Us And Them,” but only briefly. The setting for this moment in time is the 17th Century.

It’s the 16th Century in “Dragon On The Sea,” where “Queen Elizabeth [has sent] the brave Sir Francis Drake to defend the English realm against the invading armada.” That Armada was the Spanish Armada, sent by Phillip II with hopes of conquering England, who had “horned in on” their trade routes. Because the English had built smaller, faster and more maneuverable ships that could also fire from a longer range (and some nasty North Sea weather) assured an English victory … thus “Dragon On The Sea.” But the lyrics here seem to be a mesh of the English and Spanish point of views…or just very confusing. More great stuff from Lane. If Spears or Aguilera win a Grammy (if they’re even nominated, as I’m not really paying attention) then I’ll certainly demand a recount. As I verily say: in a sing off, the young gals would pack their bags and head home, thinking about what other career they’d best suited to. And, as I keep saying, I’m not often given to such hyperbole, but I’ll do so time and again, I think, with Lane…and on the male vox side, Wilson (of those that appear here).

We leap further back to the 8th Century Mayan Civilization in “Temple Of The King,” sung by Jacqueline Govaert, who has an okay voice…if just a bit childlike at times. Bubble like synths open “Carried By The Wind,” which soon rocks a bit harder than anything else on this album though it still maintains its symphonic feel. Lucassen handles the vocals on this track, which is very appropriate, as it is meant to be Ayreon in the 6th Century – the so-called “Dark Ages.”

But our journey doesn’t end here, as we travel back to 2800 B.C., the Druids and the enigmatic Stonehenge in “And The Druids Turn To Stone,” sung by a melancholy and restrained Damien Wilson. Beautiful arrangement, Wilson’s vocals are warm. The track breaks for an tender and thoughtful acoustic guitar solo, breaks again after a few more vocal passages for spacey synth…and then ends with a moment of near silence…stillness, where only the sounds of nature (crickets) can be heard. After “First Man,” we get “The Dream Sequencer Reprise.” (and then to Part II).

Mangala Vallis Dreams

Mangala Vallis
The Book of Dreams (2001)

If Jon Anderson were singing on this CD, you would swear it was a new Yes album. I think this is mainly due to the distinctive Rickenbacker bass. Despite being an Italian band the singing is in English and very good.

Reviewed by: Clayton Walnum, June 2002
Italy has a new progressive-rock band, but the group sounds decidedly un-Italian. Instead, these folks sound very much like the English prog of the 70s, Genesis in particular, though you can also hear dashes of Yes here and there. According to the band’s website, “Gigi, Mirco and Enzo developed the idea of Mangala Vallis in 1998. The band wandered in the world of progressive rock, and the result of three years of hard work is The Book Of Dreams, a concept album inspired by the fantastic book-writer Jules Verne and his great books. Completely in love with the sound of the early 70’s, Mangala Vallis is influenced by the music of that golden era, even if its music is filtered through its own taste and vision.”

So there you go. The band’s description of themselves is entirely accurate. If you like 70s style Genesis and Yes, you’ll probably go for this album. A caveat though: While Mangala Vallis does a good job of reproducing that 70s sound, the songs here aren’t as intense as the ones after which they are modeled. Also, although the compositions are long, they are less complex than the stuff Genesis and Yes were doing back in those golden years. The resultant sound is actually more neo-prog, with a strong 70s flavor.

A case in point is the track “Is The End The Beginning?”, which starts off sounding like Spock’s Beard doing Yes, but soon turns to a Genesis-inspired instrumental section. Maybe “Genesis-inspired” is actually an understatement, because this section’s rhythms are taken almost directly from Genesis’s magnificent “Apocalypse In 9/8” [section of “Supper’s Ready”] on the Foxtrot album. The instrumentation here isn’t as complex, though, and doesn’t build to anywhere near the intensity of the original. There are, in fact, several places where the band lifts almost directly from Genesis. For example, parts of the song “The Book Of Dreams” will more than bring to mind Genesis’s “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe),” and “The Journey” has a guitar part that sounds suspiciously like something from “Watcher Of The Skies.” Still, while Mangala Vallis draws boldly from yesteryear, on several tracks, they do attempt to forge their own way, albeit much in the style of Genesis. The tracks “Under the Sea,” “Asha (Coming Back Home),” and “A New Century” probably represent best Mangala Vallis’s own sound. The songwriting and performances on these tracks (and on other tracks, except where that borrow heavily from Genesis) demonstrate that the band knows what they are doing and have a lot of potential.

Mangala Vallis is a three-piece with a drummer, guitarist (who doubles on bass), and a keyboardist. Guest vocalists, including Vic Fraja, Matteo Setti and Bernardo Lanzetti (of PFM fame), provide the singing. In many cases, the vocalists go for a Peter Gabriel sound, both as far as their tone and their expression go. Let’s just say that Mangala Vallis may love English prog in general, but there’s no doubt who their favorite English group is. The frequent lack of originality notwithstanding, the band sounds very professional, playing well together and putting together some terrific vocal parts. The band’s guitarist is no slouch either and churns out some tasty solos. The recording is crisp and clear, with every instrument easily audible.

All things considered, I like this CD quite a bit. Maybe next time out, Mangala Vallis can drop the imitations and go for the real gold. I know I plan to keep my eye on this band.

Lana’s Ballads


Lana Lane
Ballad Collection (2000)

More of the same from Lana Lane, this time focusing on slower songs. I like her version of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” better than the original.

Reviewed by: John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, March 2001
Prog diva Lana Lane has already made her mark with her superb voice and matching compositions backed by husband Erik Norlander and fellow Rocket Scientists cohorts. One of the first countries to really appreciate Lana’s output was Japan, a country known for its avid fans, and ditto collectors. Hence the idea to release a Ballad Collection solely for the Japanese market way back in 1998 (sounds a long time ago doesn’t it?). Because of the great success in the land of the rising sun, the band and Lana decided it was time to release the album also for the rest of the world and to do so they opted for a double disc.

Going back to the Japanese single release, … that one consisted of the best ballads from Lana Lane’s then three studio albums, augmented with three bonus tracks recorded especially for that release. The opening song “Avalon” not only uses the same name as the band’s Japanese record company, it’s also a Rocket Scientists song from their debut album Earthbound. However, this time around guitarist Neil Citron has joined, plus we certainly have to mention the incredible violin played by Novi Novog. The acoustic beauty “Athena’s Shadow” was written by Lana on acoustic guitar and nicely executed here by Neil Citron, Don Schiff and Mark McCrite.

Another Rocket Scientists “classic” is added in the form of “Stardust,” re-recorded in 1998 and sporting some wonderful mellotron sections. The rest of the material comes from the Love Is An Illusion, Curious Goods and Garden Of The Moon albums, but once again strictly ballads! For this new release this disc sports an extra track in the form of “Season’s End,” a great cover from a Marillion highlight which is hinged around acoustic guitar with some outstanding bass lines, lush mellotron and sparse synthesizer sounds.

To make this set more interesting Lana has added a bonus disc entitled “the 2000 sessions” which includes brand new recordings and covers recorded just after Secrets Of Astrology (or you take the “1998” disc as the bonus disc whatever way you want to look at it). Here she tries her hand at many well known classics in the field of ballads. First up is Dan Fogelberg’s “Nether Lands” title track. Once again husband Erik Norlander adds a fair amount of mellotron which kind of lifts this song from the ground so it can view the world from up in the blue sky! The military drums introduce Lana’s melodic singing. Superb organ sounds fill the newly penned “Hands To Heal” written by the Winfield/Schiff household who previously wrote Lana Lane classics such as “Cold Outside,” “Let Heaven In” and “Take A Breath”. Again Neil Citron adds a great sparkle by means of a tremendous guitar solo. Great! Next up is a small tribute for Elton John whose “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” apparently wasn’t just my favourite but also one of Lana’s. To give it a new “look,” Erik decided to substitute Elton’s piano for a Hammond.

Sitting under the elderly oak in her own backyard, Lana strummed the acoustic guitar playing two new compositions which strangely seemed to fit together hence the medley of the new songs “A Place In Time” and “Nevermore” both sporting great orchestral arrangements. “Critical Mass” opens in true barbershop style with loads of different voices blending nicely together before culminating into “Wind On The Water” which has Lana’s voice create the waves on the musical ocean. Initially recorded by David Crosby and Graham Nash this is indeed a song which perfectly illustrates the quality of the voice. Written in 1947, “Autumn Leaves” is probably the first jazz standard ever to be committed to the Lana Lane CD collection. The nice melody is taken over by Neil Citron whilst Norlander delivers some whirling Hammond to add extra depth. It’s also interesting to hear how the drunken voice of Tom Waits is replaced by the velvet sounds of Lana during “Innocent When You Dream.” The disc ends with the Supertramp classic “If Everyone Was Listening.” Knowing how high pitched Roger Hodgson sings the original of course Lana has no problems what so ever singing this little gem.

I keep finding it difficult in order to find an explanation why Lana Lane still hasn’t made it in a big way. At the same time I still doubt whether at all this music is progressive rock or not. For all I know this is great rock music with superb arrangements unworthy of only selling a handful worldwide. If you have never heard Lana Lane before then this is the best possible release to get into Lana’s spell. The only setback is that once you’ve heard her sing, she becomes very addictive indeed and with a remarkable CD output already it might look like an expensive experience. However for the time being you get two discs for the price of one. Who can argue with that?

More about Ballad Collection:

Track Listing: Disc One: The 2000 Sessions : Nether Lands / Hands To Heal / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road / A Place In Time / Nevermore / A Place In Time Reprise / Ghost Beside My Bed – To The Last Whale / Critical Mass / Wind On The Water / The River Maid / Autumn Leaves / Innocent When You Dream / If Everyone Was Listening

Disc Two: The 1998 Sessions : Avalon / Athena’s Shadow / Stardust / Season’s End / Through The Fire (Acoustic Studio Version) / When Time Stood Still / Clouds (Abc Mix) / Heart Of Dawn (Abc Mix) / Take A Breath (Abc Mix) / Across The Universe / Avalon Reprise

Lana Lane – voice and charisma
Erik Norlander – keyboards, moral support, lover


Mark McCrite – guitar, vocals
Neil Citron – guitar
Tony Franklin – bass
Don Schiff – bass
Greg Ellis – drums
Tommy Amato – drums
Gregory Phelps – vocals
Tully Winfield – vocals
Novi Novog – viola


Love Is An Illusion (1995)
Curious Goods (1996/2002)
Garden Of The Moon (1998/2002)
Echoes from the Garden (1998)
Live in Japan (1998)
Love Is An Illusion 1998 Version (1998)
Ballad Collection (1998)
Acoustic Live in Tokyo (1999) promotional release only
Queen Of The Ocean (1999)
Echoes From The Ocean (1999)
Secrets Of Astrology (2000)
Ballad Collection (2000)

Kaipa Notes

Notes From The Past (2002)

This is very similar to the Flower Kings, but with different vocalists.
Again, Roine Stolt is the genius behind it all.

Reviewed by: John “Bo Bo” Bollenberg, February 2002
Those of you who had the pleasure of checking out the Kaipa albums when they were released on CD, courtesy of Musea, might have felt saddened by the fact that they only got to know about these guys way after the band had disbanded. Out of the Kaipa ashes The Flower Kings was founded, yet guitarist Roine Stolt remained good friends with Kaipa keyboard player Hans Lundin, so much so that both musicians agreed to unleash yet another Kaipa album to the world. With the addition of the talented bass contributions from FK and session musician Jonas Reingold, the drum madness of Morgan Agren, who’s known from his stint with Zappa and Mats & Morgan, and the vocals of Ritual singer Patrik Lundström, Notes From The Past continues where albums like Kaipa, Inget Nytt Under Solen and Solo left off. In fact, Kaipa released two other albums that in every respect were not worth being re-issued on CD because they didn’t contain enough good material to get the CD treatment. On both Händer and Nattdjustid you’ll find a couple of good tunes, but you can hear the band was searching for a more commercial sound in order to sell more albums. Sadly it didn’t work out. Looking back at what went wrong, both Roine and Hans could now learn from their mistakes and thus steer the material for the new album in a direction which comes close to the nucleus of the first three albums. The distinctive guitar sound of Roine will nevertheless take your mind back to some of the Flower Kings highlights, which I feel is an obvious reaction, as FK has been going strong for the last couple of years, not forgetting Transatlantic, of course.

A perfect example of what to expect throughout the entire album can be found in the opening thrack “Notes From The Past – Part 1,” which kind of sums up all of the influences we will encounter on this new Kaipa journey. Especially the intro for “Night-Bike-Ride (On Lilac Street)” has this déja vu feel to it. Lundström illustrates what a great singer he is during the wonderful, melodic “Mirrors of Yesterday.” Lundin introduces the immortal mellotron rather heavily during “Leaving The Horizon,” a 14-minute plus epic that again holds a lot of the Flower Kings trademarks, although all of the material has been penned by Lundin (who certainly must have listened a lot to the FK output, learning his lessons from the band’s current success). But then again maybe one can say that Stolt “borrows” a lot from the vintage Kaipa period in the FK music, so who was first: the chicken or the egg? The folk influence is heavilly present during “Folke’s Final Decisio”‘ although some heavy blues is introduced as well. The main melody here alternates between keyboards and guitar delivering a fresh sounding tune.

One of the highlights of the album and certainly one that will please many guitar fans has to be the epic “The Name Belongs To You.” With Lundin’s mellotron sounds opening for Patrik’s vocals, the song evolves in a rather strange way in order to find the right “hook” on which to hang the entire song. In between Patrik’s vocal acrobatics we witness a rave collection of guitar solos brought to you buy the one and only “king of Swedish guitar playing” Roine Stolt. Several sounds from the magical mellotron are used to underline the symphonic nature of “Second Journey Inside The Green Glass” which holds a lot of Ars Nova elements. Meanwhile the first chord sounds almost like “Watcher Of The Skies” revisited, before once again the guitars go completely wild.

We welcome nice female vocals in “A Road In My Mind” courtesy of Aleena Lundin & Tove Thörn Lundin adding a nice ballad to the already impressive collection of wonderful tunes on this album. Containing a slightly country-ish feel, the song is taken into overdrive by means of the organ before calm sets in once again in order to let the vocals shine. “Morganism” is probably the weirdest track on the album, introducing a horn section and fuzzy wah-wah sounds, not forgetting a section where the rhythm goes completely over the top. Again guitar and keys work tremendously well together, adding a fantastic vibe throughout the song, often getting close to the better parts of the impressive career of the band Chicago. At the end of this song Kaipa has added something that doesn’t really fit the atmosphere of the song, but hey this is prog remember? The album closes with a rerun from the main theme as delivered in the opening track. So it’s vintage sounds galore once again with some stunning keyboard interventions by Hans Lundin, backed at first by soft acoustic guitars that soon switch towards distorted guitar. The album ends with the sound of the wind blowing through the Skandinavian countryside, opening plenty of opportunities for a follow up. No doubt this album will please Flower Kings fans the world over, as the music sounds so very much like FK all over the place. Let’s say that it’s more FK than Kaipa. Luckily the inclusion of singer Patrik Lundström adds an extra flavour to the music, making it a splendid release. Now if Roine Stolt can take some time off between FK and Transatlantic commitments maybe he can take Kaipa on the road, a thing that will certainly be appreciated the world over. NEARfest 2003 anyone?

Hans Lundin – Hammond, synthesizers, mellotron, piano, vocals
Roine Stolt – electric and acoustic guitars
Morgan Agren – drums
Patrik Lundström – vocals
Jonas Reingold – bass
Aleena Lundin and Tove Thörn Lundin – additional vocals



Kaipa (1975)
Inget Nytt Under Solen (1978)
Solo (1978)
Händer (1980)
Nattdjustid (1982)
Notes From The Past (2002)
Keyholder (coming fall 2003)

Star Metal

Arjen Anthony Lucassen
Star One/Space Metal 2002

This was the first Ayreon/Arjen Lucassen album I purchased. The first CD has great symphonic rock songs with memorable lyrics and great melodies (listen to the subsequent live CD with the audience participation).

The second CD contains Hawkwind covers with Dave Brock singing. The final “hidden” track is Arjen’s observation on space travel and is a real hoot.

Galactic Anthems

Galactic Anthems
Galactic Anthems (2002)

This immediately reminded me of the early Tangerine Dream albums (like Zeit) . It’s all synths, sequencers & spaceships.
Not as upbeat and pop-like as Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis, but more ambient and laid back. More like the soundscapes of Robert Fripp or some of Brian Eno’s work. It works on two levels, at low volumes as ambient noise and louder where you can hear the details in the compositions.

From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
This is the debut release by a fellow from L.A. named Glen Adams, and on this he flirts right on the edges of what I like about ambient synth music and what drives me nuts – namely, the need to ÿspice things upÿ by adding all kinds of other influences. If you are gonna float then just do it! To whit, the second track, Orbital Bop, is exactly what you might guess from the title – spacey jazz-fusion. Miles Davis this ainÿt, which is too bad. Things also veer a little too close to ambient techno (is that a genre? Hell, I don’t knowÿ) on “Tortured Souls”. On the positive side, when he loses the beat and just floats (Journey) things get quite nice, and toward the end of the CD some of the more dissonant tracks such as Way Out There and especially Black Nebulaÿ are really excellent, and reach the Hearts Of Space vibe that Mr. Adams is pretty obviously after. Galactic Anthems is a mixed bag, but there is definitely some interesting motion.

For more information you can visit the Galactic Anthems web site at:


Fallen    (2003)

Everyone should have seen this CD by now. It’s in all the CD shops and even in supermarkets. I came across this band when searching for gothic bands (see I would describe this as being hard rock with female vocals, like Garbage & Stellar. Unlike other gothic bands (After Forever & Nightwish) the vocals are not in the operatic soprana style, some of it more closer to screaming.

But if you like Bands like Stellar, Garbage & The Cranberries you should like this. The songs are definitely above average and very polished. They probably need to sell a billion copies to pay for all the work done on the CD and music videos.


Birdsongs of the Mesozoic

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
Petrophonics (2000)

The first time I heard this, it reminded me of Supertramp in the way the piano leads the rhythms, rather than trying to supply a melody. Some of it is almost over the edge into the “avant-garde jazz” land of instrumental wankery. Only focus and the rock feel of the bank keeps it in the region of what I would loosely call progressive jazz.

Review by: Stephanie Sollow, July 2001
Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic are somewhat what I expected from their name. I say somewhat because I couldn’t truly guess from the name alone, but would have gathered that they weren’t metal, though there are some angular edges on Petrophonics. While I had first heard Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic at NEARFest 2001 (aside from a sample track I heard a few days before), I had heard of them years before, often seeing their CDs in one of local music sources. There is just something about the name that suggests something different from the ordinary progressive rock — whatever that means (what I mean is something other than rock based prog, like jazz based prog, for instance). A higher level of arty-ness, perhaps; but also something with a lot more percussion in the arrangements. Though, now knowing what they do sound like, it’s hard to really say what I thought before since I didn’t give all that much thought before. I do know that I thought maybe they’d be a little too abstract for me, maybe a little too arty.

The bands or artists that came to mind whilst listening to Petrophonics (their most recent) were King Crimson, ELP, Supersister, early Steve Roach, and Djam Karet. The Supersister thought came to me with “Nevergreen,” a Lindgren composed piece – there is a sense of humour and playfulness in the arrangement, even if there are also some very serious passages, as there is about 4 minutes in when saxophonist Ken Fields takes the lead. This moment of serious reflection is slowly subsumed by a pulsating guitar tone, snappy and crisp percussion, which takes the track out. In contrast, you get the very moody, atmospheric, and dark “Study Of Unintended Consuences” (composed by Rick Scott) – think of a collaboration between Steve Roach and Robert Fripp, though with added sax honks and bleets, there’d be one other element to add. There are moments of experimentalism, too, or at least how I think of experimentalism – a combination of sounds that don’t, on the surface, go together, but of ultimately do.

I mentioned ELP above, but really it is more just E part of that acronym, as there are plenty of very percussive keyboard parts here. By which we can name Tarkus as a touchstone, but don’t think that if you listen to this you’ll find a copped riffs or anything. And speaking of percussion, there is some very interesting sounding electronic percussion on “Birdhead,” a song that band say was “composed around the pre-recorded track ‘Autobody’ which appears on Drumhead’s 1998 CD release” (Drumhead are Sheila McCarthy and Josh Matthews on percussion and Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu) on bass).

Another contrast is “Allswell That Endswell In Roswell” is a gentle keyboard and flute piece composed by guitarist Michael Bierylo. It is the kind of piece one might find on a Miramar or Narada soundtrack to some digital film or documentary. I though of such synthesists as James Reynolds, pieces from a Paul Speer/David Lanz collaboration, or even a touch of Tangerine Dream. The analog instruments add a warmth that is often lacking in Tangerine Dream, but certainly felt very much in Speer/Lanz. All of which means you can’t simply say Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic are a jazz-rock band, as the opening track and bits elsewhere suggest.

Tracks 8 – 11 are pieces that form the “Music Inspired By 1001 Real Apes.” The suite opens with “Time Marches On Theme” which is a gentle, lilting acoustic based piece of guitar, flute, and piano. There is a sound texture to it that makes it feel like a live performance on a warm summer evening. “Dinosaurs Theme” is a darkly, churning piece, with a percussive edge. Bierylo’s jagged guitar adds a bit of menace. Maybe I’ve been watching too many dinosaur specials, but there comes a point where things are a bit more relaxed and I see a curious dinosaur watching, head cocked, not quite sure if we’re harmless or harmful. “Gravity Theme” has loping southwestern flavour. The last part is “Quincy Sore Throat Theme.” Jack Klugman, TV’s Quincy, had throat cancer and now has a very harsh and rough voice as a result – it is to this that Lingren refers. There are echoes of the show’s theme here, too — well, at least I think so, it’s been quite a long time since I heard the theme, but something sounds familiar (other than I’ve been playing this nearly everyday since NEARfest). As the liner notes explain, “‘Music Inspired By 1001 Real Apes’ came out of a collaboration between David Greenburger and Birdsongs […] The original sixty-five minute work consists of thirty stories drawn from Greenburger’s publication The Duplex Planet. This suite expands upon the musical direction taken by four of the selections from the soundtrack composed by Birdsongs.”

Tracks 12 – 14 form a three part suite called “The Insidious Revenge Of Ultima Thule,” also all composed by Lindgren, which at times sound like very warm, smooth jazz (not, however “smooth jazz”).

Well, I can tell you was very impressed by their live performance at NEARFest to pick up this and their Dancing On A’A CD, and have been impressed enough by this to just other day pick up Faultline and Pyroclatics). So this is another band I recommend.


Silas & Friends Vol 1 

Silas & Friends Vol 2

Silas & Friends Vol 3

Ambient music can be difficult to get right. It needs to be of low intensity and provide a specific mood to space. My theory is that the best examples perform two functions. At low volume it doesn’t draw attention to itself but fulls a room with sound. At high volumes it reveals it’s detail of timbre, texture and polyphonic rhythms.

So finding a new artist is always enlightening. Cousin Silas is my latest find. On his own, the music tends towards monotone drones. But in collaboration with others comes the best results. These three albums represent his best work.



All India Spaceship

Dream On
Big Spaceship (2005)

Just when you think you have all the ‘All India Radio’ releases, you discover something new.

The band, formed by Martin Kennedy creates atmospheric chill/downbeat music. All India Radio’s music has featured in CSI: Miami, One Tree Hill, The Lying Game, Australia’s hit Bondi Rescue and the film The Rare Earth.

This album comes from 2005 and has a different feel to Martin’s other work. It’s a bit more up-beat and has a distinct 1980s feel to it. The songs have a more conventional structure of verse/chorus/verse. Most song have vocals (by Kennedy, Chloe Hall and Glenn Richards). The best part of the wonderful sounding drums and bass, this anchors the songs and has occasionally a swing beat that adds a slow-dance aspect. Also present in some songs is a saxophone that sounds a lot like it came from Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here”.