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Prog Round-up: February 2012

Geoff Barton on new releases from Touchstone, Also Eden, Xanadu, Ben Craven and Everwood

Touchstone: The City Sleeps

Touchstone appear to be prevaricating over their prog identity on this, their major label debut. Certainly the press release hedges its bets, calling the band an ‘effervescent British prog/modern melodic metal rock five-piece’. Strangely, there’s no mention of skiffle or dubstep… Fans needn’t worry, however. All the key Touchstone elements are here – from Adam Hodgson’s monstrous guitar, via Rob Cottingham’s coruscating keyboards, to Kim Seviour’s tremulous vocals – albeit in supersized form. There are two epics – When Shadows Fall and the title track, which has Anna-Marie Wayne, daughter of Jeff, providing a cosmic Hole In My Shoe-style voiceover. But the shorter songs shouldn’t be ignored: Throw Them To The Sky veers into pomp-rock territory; Sleeping Giants is strangely reminiscent of T’Pau’s China In Your Hand; Good Boy Psycho twists and turns crazily, like something by Colosseum II; oh… and you won’t forget Horizon’s naggingly memorable mantra ‘world keeps spinning around’ in a hurry. For Touchstone, the Premier League Of Prog surely beckons. (910)

Also Eden: Think Of The Children!

The third studio album from Gloucestershire’s Also Eden is hugely ambitious, with a multitude of underlying themes (childhood innocence, conspiracy theories, information overload) and a Fish-era Marillion vibe. Frontman/lyricist Rich Harding’s near-fatal motorbike accident has undoubtedly tainted his world view, bitter reflection being the order of the day here. (810)

Xanadu: The Last Sunrise

Things are getting very incestuous in Progski land. (Progski = Polish prog, in case you were wondering.) First we had Riverside, led by Mariusz Duda, using Porcupine Tree as inspiration. Then Duda launched Lunatic Soul, echoing the Tree’s darker side. Now we’ve got Xanadu, who sound identical to Riverside. Still, despite the obvious reference points, this is good stuff. (710)

Ben Craven: Great & Terrible Potions

Brisbane, Australia-based multi-instrumentalist Ben Craven describes himself as a ‘cinematic prog-rock singer-songwriter’ and this indulgent release comes encased in a sleeve designed by none other than Roger Dean. If Buggles, Vangelis and Yngwie Malmsteen teamed up to form a barmy supergroup, they’d sound a lot like this. (510)

Everwood: Without Saving

Hungary-based Everwood would be just another run-of-the-mill melodic prog-metal combo if not for amusingly named keysman Attila Tanczer, whose twinkling, Giuffria-tinged talents add some vital razzle-dazzle to frankly average material. The occasional bit of ethnic yodelling (as on Desert Sun) helps cement the band’s individualistic appeal. (810)