Tír na nÓg: The Dark Dance
This is Irish prog-folk duo Tír na nÓg’s first new studio album in 42 years and – as someone who forked out good money for their A Tear And A Smile LP, back in 1972 – it’s like they’ve never been away. If you enjoy Led Zep’s forays into acoustic-dom (Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, That’s The Way et al) then the music of Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly will resonate.
Each of these deceptively serene songs has an underlying mysticism, an arcane quality that cannot be denied. You In Yellow is part tender love song, part mournful poem; Ricochet is a Tyrannosaurus Rex-style wig-out; the zephyr-like Time Is Gone is a self-reproaching ode to what might have been: ‘I had a life/I never got down to it.’ There’s some dark humour too: I Pick Up Birds At Funerals is based on a real-life fling with an undertaker’s daughter and includes the lyric: ‘I bring them home and feed them egg sandwiches and soup.’ That’s the way to treat a lady. (8⁄10)
The Powwow Rock Orchestra: Everybody Powwow!
This concept album has an all-star cast including singer Robert Hart and guitarist Bernie Marsden. Set in the US New World of the late 19th century, it’s the story of an ill-fated love affair between an English settler, Thomas Christian, and a Sioux tribeswoman. A trifle musical theatre in places, it’s still a powerful tale, well told. (7⁄10)
Crimson Chrysalis: Enraptured
Proof positive that female-fronted symphonic rock isn’t the sole property of Northern Europe, Crimson Chrysalis are from South Africa. Comin’ atcha like an Andrew Lloyd Webber-ised version of Within Temptation, the highlight is Burning Fire With Fire with its over-the-top production, tremulous operatic warbling and driving ethnic drumbeats. (7⁄10)
Space Mirrors: Cosmic Horror III: Stella Polaris
This concludes an HP Lovecraft-inspired trilogy, which began with In Darkness They Whisper (2011) and continued with The Other Gods (2013). The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Alisa Coral, III reaches its chilling pinnacle with The Crawling Chaos, 11 minutes of guttural grunts and synthesised pandemonium. (6⁄10)
Forest Field: Angels?
The Prog Column is usually the epitome of decorum and restraint, so it came as a shock to stumble across this album cover which depicts a nude, Manga-type female handcuffed and bound with police incident tape. A total misrepresentation of Forest Field’s music, it turns out: roughly hewn, guitar-heavy pomp rock that falls somewhere Styx and Asia. (5⁄10)