Prog Round-up: January 2013

Geoff Barton on new releases from To-Mera, Permanent Clear Light, Nine Stones Close, Øresund Space Collective and Heavy Water Experiments

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To-Mera: Exile

After two albums for Candlelight Records – 2006’s Transcendental and 2008’s Delusions – UK techno-proggers To-Mera have opted to self-issue Exile. With keyboardist Richard Henshall now firmly ensconced as a full-time member, the improvement on past releases is substantial. The mega-complex, convoluted style of old has been replaced by a more considered approach, and the voice of Julie Kiss (now known as Julie K Maclean, having last year married To-Mera guitarist Tom Maclean) has matured substantially. The sound is crisp instead of dense and impenetrable. The band’s most accessible album by far, Exile falls somewhere between Tristania and Evanescence. Towering riffs are counterbalanced by tremulous vocals, while Henshall’s mysterious keys appear to have been sampled from some warped 1970s pomp-rock combo. The two best tracks – Broken and All I Am – are ballads at heart (albeit chilling, disturbing ones). The Descent is downright doomy, while the mangled but magnificent Surrender comes closest to the To-Mera of old. (810)

Permanent Clear Light: Higher Than The Sun/Afterwards

Limited to 800 copies, this 7-inch coloured vinyl single from Finland’s top psychedelic band is destined to become a collectors’ classic. The A-side is more Golden Brown than Screamadelica, while Afterwards gives a Floydian twist to the ancient Van der Graaf Generator track. (810)

Nine Stones Close: One Eye On The Sunrise

Nine Stones Close’s previous album, Traces, was one of our top prog albums of 2011. This new release is every bit as good. For proof, you need look no further than the title track, which is as lush and uplifting as they come. There’s a clutter of harder-edged moments for sure, but NSC are at their best when they crank up the majesty to the absolute max. (810)

Øresund Space Collective: Give Your Brain A Rest From The Matrix

As anyone who’s seen The Maxtrix Reloaded and Revolutions knows, the above title offers sound advice. Improv space rockers ØSP specialise in rambling but delicious cosmic jams. They’ve overdone it on the sitars this time, though. (510)

Heavy Water Experiments: Philosopher Queen

We used to be big fans of HWE and their unique musical style, which we once described as “mellifluous stoner rock”. No longer. The band have undergone a radical change of direction and now employ a dark/heavy approach with ’wordless’ female vocals. Disappointing. (410)

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.