Prog Round-up: May 2012

Geoff Barton on new releases from Landmarq, Divine Ascension, Fruits de Mer, After... and Frequency Drift

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Landmarq: Entertaining Angels

This is Landmarq’s first studio release in more than 10 years – and it’s a triumph. Full of power and passion, recording it was undoubtedly a cathartic experience for singer Tracy Hitchings, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. (She’s all clear now.) There’s also a highly personal song titled Prayer (Coming Home) about Ben Cochrane, a popular local lad from Hitchings’ village of St Mawes, Cornwall, who tragically died in a boating collision in ’05. So, emotions run high throughout. The triumphal title track verges on pomp rock, Hitchings’ voice striking a fine balance between schmaltz and bombast; Mountains of Anglia could almost be a female-fronted Rush; Calm Before The Storm climaxes with a duel between swirling synth and crunching guitar. Glowing, meanwhile, is split into two halves: Friends and Lovers. Part one impresses with its huge choruses and Queen-style vocal interplay; part two is dark, sensual and even contains the word ‘shag’ in the lyrics – surely a prog first! This first-run special edition has a bonus CD of extra songs; another 30 minutes of music. The main album is due in May. (810)

Divine Ascension: As The Truth Appears

If you’re a Within Temptation fan you’ll love Australia’s Divine Ascension, who are like a supercharged version of the Dutch band – with knobs on. Jennifer Borg’s vocals are so extreme, she makes WT’s Sharon den Adel sound like a cheeky girl. The keyboard-heavy instrumentation is equally overwhelming. Impressive for five minutes, exhausting thereafter. (510)

Various: Head Music

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the launch of the iconic Brain label, this includes 18 new interpretations of classic krautrock sounds from the early 70s. As a bonus, there’s a spoken-word intro from Eroc, Grobschnitt’s ‘lunatic drummer’. What’s not to like? If we had to pick a highlight it’d be Saturn’s Ambush’s doomy, plodding version of Can’s I Want More. (710)

After…: No Attachments

The third album from Poland’s After… is their most accomplished so far. Co-produced by Steve Kitch and Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief, No Attachments somehow manages to be both commercial and mysterious at the same time. Songs such as Enchanted and Happiness are concise and tuneful, yet also possess a distinctly chilling, melancholic undercurrent. (710)

Frequency Drift: Ghosts…

Germany’s Frequency Drift are branding themselves a ‘cinematic prog band’. It’s no idle boast. Taking their inspiration from the Blade Runner soundtrack, this dreamy, meandering offering is enhanced by Antje Auer’s haunting vocals and some entertainingly off-the-wall Thijs Van Leer-style flute playing. Just a shame there are no actual visuals to accompany it. (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.