Prog Round-up: May 2013

Geoff Barton on new releases from Big Big Train, Cosmograf, Retrospective, The Minstrel’s Ghost and Godsticks

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Big Big Train: English Electric Part Two

Bournemouth’s Big Big Train are big big news these days. For proof, look no further than our sister mag Prog’s 2012 readers’ poll: BBT’s English Electric Part One was the No.2 album, kept off the top only by Marillion’s Sounds That Can’t Be Made. With Part Two the steam-driven things continue their elegiac journey across the English landscape – and there’s not a points failure in sight. The aural equivalent of TV’s Countryfile (or, for older readers, Jack Hargreaves’s Out Of Town), here be seven stiff-upper-lipped songs that soar like a squadron of Spitfires on a serene summer’s day. Stories are told of the shipbuilders in Neptune’s Yard, of a Keeper Of Abbeys and (our personal favourite) a Curator Of Butterflies. With David Longdon’s voice recalling Peter Gabriel at his most highly charged, it’s hard to judge whether this mood-laden piece is solemn, or uplifting, or both. What is for sure is that Part Two is another stunning achievement. (810)

Cosmograf: _The Man Left In Space _

Cosmograf is a project led by Hampshire-based multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong. As its name implies, the album deals with the Major Tom-esque theme of intergalactic solitude. Reminiscent of Tinyfish with brutally heavy guitars, it also highlights how mankind’s increasing social alienation is caused by single-minded, success-driven lifestyles. Cleverly done. (710)

Retrospective: Lost In Perception

The Polish band are keen to distance themselves from fellow countrymen Riverside but they’re actually very similar: same agonised vocals; same bleak, bass-driven songs. Or as the press release says: ‘The sextet is able to make guitars howl thunderously and make them weep in a dreamy Frippertronics way.’ Now if we had a Zloty for every time someone told us that… (610)

The Minstrel’s Ghost: The Road To Avalon

This retelling of the Arthurian legend is a brave failure. Arizona’s The Minstrel’s Ghost have the commitment but not the Wakeman-sized grandiosity to do their subject justice. It all sounds rather lame, like an am-dram Styx. Camelot even has a drum solo, fer Chrissakes. They probably blew all their budget on swords and robes for the publicity photo. (510)

Godsticks: The Envisage Conundrum

Existing in a mysterious prog netherworld somewhere between Van der Graaf Generator and System Of A Down, Godsticks are damn difficult to pigeonhole. This, their second full-length, showcases a harsher, heavier sound and is by no means a relaxing listen. The album climaxes with a fraught three-part epic titled Borderstomp, by which time your nerves are in shreds. (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.