Prog Round-up: Summer 2011

Geoff Barton on new releases from Pendragon, Diatessaron, Cynthesis, Wobbler and Dream The Electric Sleep

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Pendragon: Passion

Pendragon came to prominence during the Marillion-spearheaded Second Wave of Prog (SWOP) in the mid-1980s. While highly regarded within the prog community, a big-time breakthrough has always eluded our Arthurian heroes. Part of that may be due to band mainman Nick Barrett, an abrasive and forthright character who doesn’t know the meaning of the word compromise, and who has steadfastly refused to kow-tow to us media luvvies over the years. For a band that formed way back in 1978, Passion is amazingly modern-sounding. Jarring Radiohead-style moments and blissful guitar playing go hand-in-hand, while Barrett’s vocal delivery is bitterly compelling. ‘Drop my balls!’ he growls inexplicably on the thunderous title track; why, he even raps (yes, raps) during Empathy. On a prog album? Who would’ve thought it?! Still, there’s also plenty of mellifluous playing to please the diehards. Refining the template of previous release Pure, Pendragon now have the attitude and aggression of a thoroughly 21st century band. What a turnaround. (810)

Diatessaron: Monument

Diatessaron are a five-piece from Calgary, Canada and Monument is a rock symphony in five movements dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Given the subject matter, the music is surprisingly restrained (imagine an abstract, jazz-inflected Jethro Tull). But it’s a compelling work, nevertheless. (510)

Cynthesis: DeEvolution

With Queensrÿche’s new album Dedicated To Chaos receiving a resounding thumbs-down, our advice is to turn to California’s Cynthesis for your essential dose of complex, pomp-heavy prog. Great concept, too: a tribe’s shaman is brainwashed by evil business moguls in an attempt to create the perfect supreme leader and gain control over the masses. (810)

Wobbler: Rites At Dawn

If you like your prog to be determinedly retro, look no further than the endearingly named Wobbler. The Norwegian band steadfastly refuse to play any instrument that was manufactured after 1975; hence Rites At Dawn sounds exactly like an early release on the Harvest label. Reference points are many: Yes, Greenslade, even Starcastle. Remarkably good. (710)

Dream The Electric Sleep: Lost And Gone Forever

Haling from Lexingon, Kentucky, DTES draw on a variety of influences including Genesis, Neurosis, ELP and U2 – “an abnormally eclectic mix,” as they themselves admit. The subject matter of this album might be a tad prosaic (the tribulations of a Kentucky coalminer and his wife) but the music is definitely not. (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.