Prog Round-up: June 2012

Geoff Barton on new releases from Galahad, Wally, Abandoned Stars, InVertigo and Moon Of Ostara

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Galahad: Battle Scars

This might seem an idiotic comment for a band who’ve been around for 25-plus years, but… don’t let their name fool you. Dungeons, dragons and distressed damsels aren’t what Galahad are about. Rather, Battle Scars is a thoroughly modern release that embraces a myriad of styles, veering into techno, ambient and dance territories at times. Echoes of Riverside, Oceansize and even System Of A Down also resound in an album of breathtaking ambition. Beginning with the highly orchestrated title song, this isn’t a relaxing listen. Each track has numerous twists and turns, and the overall ambience is unnerving, jagged and challenging. Standouts include Singularity, which recalls Finnish experimentalists Pharoah Overlörd; Bitter And Twisted, full of mysterious intensity; and Seize The Day, which begins in elegiac fashion and then goes techno crazy. It’s a fitting tribute to bassist Neil Pepper, who died of cancer last year aged just 44. He managed to play all his parts on Battle Scars although he had to sit down to play because of the discomfort. (810)

Wally: Montepellier

Wally issued two albums in the early 70s and were even managed by Yes’ Brian Lane. Having re-formed in 2009, this has leftover tracks from their early years plus more recent material. The songs are epic but never overblown, often recalling the sentimental charm of prime-time Moody Blues. There’s a distinct singer-songwritery approach; why, She Said could even be described as Manilowesque! (610)

Abandoned Stars: Opening Act

Featuring two Scots, a Frenchman and an Italian, Abandoned Stars lie somewhere between Rush and Pain Of Salvation. This is more of an EP than a full CD, with just four tracks. But sometimes less is more when you’re confronted by such convoluted prog-metal as this. The band’s skills are undeniable but the songs are so manic it sounds like the band were mainlining espresso during the recording. (510)

InVertigo: Veritas

Germany’s inVertigo claim their music is ‘situated somewhere between complexity and catchiness, epic structures and radio affinity’. They’re not far wrong, as each of the seven tracks here offers equal portions of intensity and accessibility. Part Flower Kings, part Pendragon, the highlight is Memoirs Of A Mayfly which, at 22 minutes, lasts a lot longer than the lifespan of said insect. (710)

Moon Of Ostara: The Star Child

This, the debut offering from Fred Laird, frontman of psychedelic rockers Earthling Society, is an absolute must for any krautrock fan. Indeed, if we didn’t know better, we’d say it was a set of long-lost Ash Ra Tempel demos. Laird describes the album as ‘a proto-druidic hallucinogenic journey into the realms of the star child’. In layman’s terms, it’s a celebration of the beginning of spring. (710)

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.