If you enjoy Elbow, Porcupine Tree and even Pink Floyd’s more traditional, less impressionistic moments then check out Mind Of A Man, the second album from London’s Jade Vine. Anathema’s Danny Cavanagh co-produced their 2012 debut and they toured with his band too, but with the big choruses and many textures imbuing Can’t See Why, Asy (Now Or Never) and F.E.A.R., the Brothers Magdalinos are well past the celeb-endorsement phase now. A really solid listen with hooks and songcraft galore.
The urbane, Penguin Café-style orchestral prelude to Axon-Neuron’s third, double-disc LP Metamorphosis is a little deceptive. Though speckled with strings in parts, what follows is a knotty and engaging array of prog songs blending Crimson-y rhythms, world/fusion cadences and some pleasingly heavy riffs. Amanda Rankin’s plangent voice is just the right side of theatrical, bringing a human, feminine touch to the imaginative six- and nine-string guitar alchemy of Suspicions and Shattered. In Eyes a dizzying stream of ideas runs past your, well, ears. They’re like a gentler, more bohemian District 97, cut with a dash of Johnny Greenwood’s 21st century film music. Irresistible stuff.
Judging by Ipswich band Habu’s second album Infinite, these three lads have listened to a lot of Rush in their time. Their power trio sound borrows heavily from Geddy and band: Alex Body’s lithe bass is busy, and Andy Clarke’s been studying the Lifeson Book Of Chords intently. There are clearly chops here, but there are way too many fluffed notes, the vocals are demo quality at best, and in an ever more crowded prog scene, lyrics like ‘Shackled by the chains of fear/Hoping they will disappear’ just won’t cut it any more. Habu are in here because they’re possibly just one singer and two albums away from really being something.
For a trio whose sound has had just a bit longer in the oven, get your tentacles around Worlds Aparts, the debut from Birmingham’s Oktopus. With a stint at HRH Prog and as support for Dave Kerzner and District 97, they’re making inroads into the scene with a likeable, song-based offering drawing on tech-metal and entry-level Aristocratic fusion. It’s topped by Alistair Bell’s high, powerful vocals and his Christophe Godin-esque fretboard wizardry.
Finally, if we’re talking axe skills, British guitarist Dave Locke brings a genuine mastery of tone and technique to his current album Transitions. No less a player than über-shredder Jason Becker has compared his “wonderfully buttery Strat tone” to David Gilmour’s, and there’s more than enough prog flavour to tracks like Foundation, Structures and Displacement, and extra marks for those none-more-jazz titles too. Lyrical and challenging passages alike abound on what’s clearly been a labour of love.