“Everything from Between The Buried And Me to Duran Duran. There doesn’t seem to be a distinct barrier in terms of what we believe we can funnel into Kyros." The sound of UK prog rockers Kyros and new album Mannequin

(Image credit: Grace Hayhurst)

Kyros’s last full studio album, Celexa Dreams, was released in 2020, when the world was in a different place. With freedom to roam again, the band are back with a bang on their fourth LP, Mannequin, as Prog found out when we sat down with mainstay Shelby Logan-Warne

"The realisation that we can do whatever we want and no one will stop us is kind of magical," says Kyros’s Shelby Logan Warne, and who are we to disagree?

The British-based, pop-meets-prog-meets-metal quartet have furrowed a unique path of individuality in recent years, and on their fourth studio album, Mannequin, it appears the dial has been nudged even more. Keyboard player and vocalist Warne points to styles and sounds like new jack swing, which pop up among the 10 new retro-tinged tracks. This musical melting pot never forget about the melody, though, and that’s a key part of how Kyros have created a record that could well take them far.

“I don’t think we’re a band that’s ever been too overly conscious about our quote/unquote ‘sound’,” drummer Robin Johnson adds. “There’s some bands who might not release a song because they’re like, ‘That doesn’t really sound like us, we’re not going to do that.’ We’ve always been more of the mindset that if we’ve written it, then it sounds like us, by nature of us having written it. We’re happy to let that be the guide really.”

Kyros’s last full original album, Celexa Dreams, was released in 2020, when world events meant there was no tour and no proper album cycle. Instead, they hosted a series of Isolation Session online performances. It was dubbed ‘a virtual tour’, but was no substitute for the real thing. This time around, however, there is “excitement in the air, for sure”, Warne says, a feeling no doubt given a shot in the arm by the arrival last year of new bassist Charlie Cawood – but more on that later.


(Image credit: White Star Records)

Mannequin is described as a “very vulnerable and personal” album when it comes to the lyrics, especially for Warne, a transgender woman who transitioned in recent years.

“For me, at least, a lot of what I was writing about was how identity is so based in theatrics, and you could put up this whole front, this fake persona,” she says. “Obviously there’s a lot that can be drawn out of that on an individual basis. Everyone has something they could pull out of that concept. But obviously for me, and the changes I’ve gone through in recent years, there’s a lot to write about.
How you can spend your whole life essentially living this fake life for it to finally bring down the curtains, and feel a great sense of relief for it.” 

US-based guitarist Joe E Frevola also contributed lyrics. 

“The ones that I wrote on this album tended to kind of be about people, specific people in my life, who I observed something interesting in, that sparked something to write about,” says Frevola. “In some ways [it’s] both more personal and less silly than my previous lyrics, but also distinctly not really about myself.”

Musically, the songs themselves are a playful, kaleidoscopic romp. Although for every Haken-esque dose of riffola or wacky lick there’s a portion of pensive pop, or key-laden introspection.

The stonking, near-eight-minute The End In Mind shreds, but is swimming in atmosphere, while the catchy refrains of the peppy Esoterica are memorable. Kyros cite support slots with Marillion, Spock’s Beard and IQ on their CV, all of which have seemingly influenced their sound, and there are whiffs of 80s Yes lurking in their synthy shimmer. Warne also points to the ethos of prog metal overlords Dream Theater as a guiding light, both in terms of technicality and songcraft.

“I’ve really been getting reacquainted with Dream Theater again recently in light of [Mike] Portnoy rejoining the band, and I was watching a whole load of old footage of making of albums and the guys in the studio,” she says. “There is this one clip where [John] Petrucci says you can have all these tracks with a million notes and a million different time signatures, but the most important thing at the core is the song. If you don’t have a song, it’s pointless. That really rings true to me. I always have that in the back of my head: that mentality of you can get technical, but the song is important, at the end of the day.”


(Image credit: Grace Hayhurst)

Kyros’s roots can be traced back more than a decade, with the group releasing their self-titled debut album in 2014 under their original name of Synaesthesia. The winds of change have rattled through them since and they’ve experienced a steady evolution in sound with plenty of line-up shifts, too. While Mannequin features the adroit chops of former bassist Peter Episcopo, Kyros now have Charlie Cawood delivering the low end.

Perhaps best known in prog circles for his involvement in acts such as Knifeworld and The Anchoress, the multi-instrumentalist teamed up with the band last year after being left impressed by a Kyros live show.

“I saw them perform last April in London before it was announced Peter was stepping away,” Cawood explains on the video call with Prog from his home. “I really got that sense of a band coming into their own and having this real confidence and exuberance behind them. In terms of a stage presentation and how they come across live, but also in terms of the music, there was a real vibe happening. It’s a similar feeling many, many years ago when I first saw Knifeworld play live, before I ended up playing in the band. I thought there was something going on there, that there was something interesting going on musically.”

He stumbled across the news that Kyros were looking for a new bassist when idly scrolling on his phone in a pub garden following an Anchoress rehearsal. Although busy with many fingers in many pies, Cawood couldn’t help but put himself forward to audition for the role.

“I’d already introduced my partner Jen to the band, having seen them two weeks before, and she was really into it,” he adds. “We’re both big Cardiacs fans, so when Shelby and Joe covered Cardiacs a couple of years ago, and did it extremely well, I was like, ‘They’ve have got something going on.’”

With a new member in the fold, and live shows locked in the diary for April, Warne says it feels like Kyros have “hit a new stride” in recent months.

“I think Charlie has breathed new life into the band,” she adds. “There’s lots to be excited about.”

Hopefully Mannequin will help them ensnare more fans, and attract more radio play if producers have their heads screwed on. Kyros’s trajectory is firmly heading upwards. Refreshingly, this is a band who look set to never compromise their adventurism, regardless of how far they may reach.

“I guess it’s just the natural process of what happens when you’ve got all of us who are into such a wide variety of styles of music,” Warne replies when asked if shifting musical styles comes organically to Kyros. “Everything from Between The Buried And Me all the way through to Duran Duran. There doesn’t seem to be a distinct barrier in terms of what we believe we can funnel through into Kyros. It seems to just be… you know what? If we can make it work, and if it sounds cool, let’s just do it.” 

Chris Cope

A writer for Prog magazine since 2014, armed with a particular taste for the darker side of rock. The dayjob is local news, so writing about the music on the side keeps things exciting - especially when Chris is based in the wild norths of Scotland. Previous bylines include national newspapers and magazines.