Prog Round-up: March 2012

Geoff Barton on new releases from 25 Yard Screamer, Rumplestiltskin, Seven Steps To The Green Door, Vangough and Sean Filkins

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25 Yard Screamer: Until All Are One

Prog is full of whimsy and wuthering, correct? Not as far as Wales’ 25 Yard Screamer are concerned. Their music can best be described as Rush covering Marillion songs in the style of Black Sabbath. For sure there are moments of quiet reflection, but invariably they are torn asunder by Nick James’ tormented guitar. Previous album, 2007’s Cassandra, was a relatively subdued affair. Until All Are One is, by contrast, bleak and mysterious; the listening experience debilitating but ultimately richly rewarding. There are three huge, near-15 minute tracks – Jeremiah, Train and The Thirteenth Bell – but our advice is to break yourself in gently with abrasive instrumental Whorus or The Waiting Room, which is somehow both stark and wistful at the same time. The Cassandra character pops up again, as does some sad soul called William. Check out the lyrics: ‘Down below poor William is alone, lost among the songs that he calls home/Deep in thought he’s unaware that Cassandra dreams and hides upstairs.’ Hmm… less of a ghost story, more of a waking nightmare. (810)

Rumplestiltskin: Black Magician

Rumplestiltskin were session-men put together by producer Shel Talmey with the aim of creating a rival to Led Zep. Unsurprisingly, Talmy’s project fell way short of the mark – as this, the band’s reissued second album from 1972, proves. Black Magician’s saving grace is Peter Lee Stirling, whose rich, sonorous voice is outstanding on sparse ballad I Am Alone. (510)

Seven Steps To The Green Door: The?Book

This concept tells the tale of a deeply religious man who, upon being forced to enter several mysterious doorways, finds his faith challenged and ultimately destroyed. Combining the dark visions of Kafka with the baffling musical versatility of Zappa, you won’t find any tracks from this being played on Magic FM. (610)

Vangough: Kingdom Of Ruin

Taking inspiration from classic prog acts such as ELP, King Crimson and Genesis, as well as modern-day artists Pain Of Salvation and Flower Kings, Oklahoma’s Vangough promise to ‘fill your ears with a violet sunrise of melodic madness’. Sadly the uncompromising nature of their music is at odds with the album’s setting: a cute fluffy rabbit kingdom, would you believe. (610)

Sean Filkins: War And Peace And Other Short Stories

An epic and involving solo set from Sean Filkins, once of Big Big Train. Like BBT, Filkins’ worldview is firmly founded in Olde England, complete with namechecks for Sunday League football and so on. Centrepiece Prisoner Of Conscience is so multi-faceted and ambitious, it’s hard to credit it’s a one-man effort. (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.