About The Progmeister

News and Events

Image Gallery



Album Reviews

DVD/Book Reviews


Favorite Links

Contact Me
Album Reviews
9/25/2011 12:04:12 PM

Continuing the multicultural musical landscapes of “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth, Steve Hackett returns to the more elaborate environment of a recording studio in which he created a diamond of an album “Beyond The Shrouded Horizon”. Recruiting extra musicians apart from the usual suspects Steve really has drawn from his own musical heritage as well as continuing his passion for including textures and rhythms from other continents to further extend the boundaries of his previous masterpiece.

Given Steve Hackett’s proven track record with classical acoustic guitar pieces and delicate touch with such an instruments it can become very difficult to pin him down to any given genre. What we have here is Steve revisiting some of the most inspiring eras of his entire career whilst remaining true to his most recent approach to structure and scale. Realising the need to retain quality, trusted personnel around him as core members of his team, Steve sensibly augments this latest project with musicians exerting their own influence and flavours on what is an already winning formula.

The wonderful thing about reviewing any work by Steve Hackett is that any comparison to his latest works can only be made to his own repertoire as he is not only unique he is an innovator, less an influenced musician more a musician who influences others. With this said, how does the progression from “Out Of A Tunnels Mouth” sound like? To say that it’s pretty good is selling it short.

“Loch Lomond” is the first of many memorable songs and from the outset this growling opener hints at where the rest of the album is going. Much of this album is reminiscent of 1999’s Darktown and this song is one of the songs that attest to that. Despite Amanda Lehmann’s sweet Harmony vocal Loch Lomond is very much a balls to the wall piece, reminding me that despite its astounding beauty it can be a very dramatic place too.

“The Phoenix Flown reminds all Steve Hackett fans why they return time after time to his concerts. This song represents another great anthem superbly executed by a guitar genius flanked by some of the best musicians in the business and is followed by the mellow tranquillity of “Wanderlust” which sets a trend of introducing larger scale pieces using atmospheric tones of acoustic guitar. The scene already set, “Till These Eyes” finds Steve in a more romantic mood and exudes a man who now finds himself in a very good place. Not a bad idea to include a ballad amongst such diverse proceedings.

“Prairie Angel” is what we have all by now come to expect from Mr Hackett, blues with depth and weight. Steve makes it large with his harmonica and treating his trusty Les Paul to a severe thrashing flows into one of the highlights “A Place Called Freedom”. As Steve states himself via his website there are hints of Americana on the album and no more so than here. “A Place called Freedom” is without doubt an uplifting and optimistic song much needed in a world with so much pessimism.

In fact throughout the journey from Voyage Of The Acolyte to this bejewelled performance I found myself intrigued by the lyrical as well as musical content. None more so than “The Sunset And The Coconut Palms”. One of the first songs apart from “Blood On The Rooftops” which has made me sit and listen to the words. All credit to him. It is evident that all has been meticulously put together and as much thought gone into lyrical content as the compositions.

Moving into a more ethnic direction, “Waking To Life” has a very distinct Asian feel to it with Amanda Lehmann’s voice sounding reminiscent of Madonna’s. The climax of this song could be described as a modern day “Land Of A Thousand Autumns” which then morphs into the majesty of “Two Faces Of Cairo”. Actually written by Steve as he was sat at the foot of the sphinx “Two Faces Of Cairo” can only be described as massive. Not the first time an Egyptian theme has been explored by Steve Hackett, The forerunner being “Valley Of The Kings” equally as dramatic and equally as evocative of the culture, history and imagery of this once great empire. From such a grand musical  gesture to that of perhaps the sweetest song on the entire album, “Looking For Fantasy”. The melancholy vocal presentation of this song could well have been sung by someone like Van Morrison such is its timing and gorgeous lethargy. The orchestration and depth of this song is give further depth and reality by Richard Stuart’s subtle cello. Breezing into “Summer Breath” a lush and tranquil acoustic guitar piece bridging a trickle of a musical stream into a the mighty Tundra of “Catwalk” which is all out blues with a feeling (No approximate pun intended). I found myself holding onto the chair arms during this baby. Take it easy with the Jack Daniels it’s very easy to get sucked into the vibe!

Just when you think the last of the electricity has been used, the grand finale of this Hackett travelogue terminates with a science fiction concept in the form of “Turn This Island Earth”. Drawing to a close a very busy recording filled with musical know how, this thunderstorm of a conclusion to what is very much the produce of a seasoned and open minded team player who gets better with each passing year. “Turn This Island Earth” Yet again revisits the Darktown era with its use of low and terrifying bass notes courtesy of the cello and Roger King’s keyboard and programming skills.

My enthusiasm for this album is evident throughout my observations in this review. Aficionados won’t need such views to decide whether or not to buy this aural diamond merely a guide to compare it to previous Hackett heritage. What will appeal to many die-hard fans is the nod and a wink to salad days whilst maintaining poll position in today’s prog scene. This has been done by keeping up with technology, re-invention and belief in what he does.

Beyond The Shrouded Horizon will be available in in three formats. CD, double vinyl record with gatefold sleeve and a limited edition media-book with nine bonus tracks.  Price was unconfirmed at the time of review. Pre-orders will be taken soon via www.hackettsongs.com release date in Europe will be September 26th. My advice is to keep your eye on Steve’s site. I’ve got my heart on an LP whatever you do don’t miss out on this masterpiece.

Steve Hackett…Electric and acoustic guitars, vocals, harmonica

Gary O’Toole & Simon Phillips…drums & percussion

Chris Squire…Bass

Nick Beggs…bass & Chapman stick

Dick Driver…double bass

Roger King & Ben Fenner…Keyboards & programming

John Hackett…Flute & vocals

Rob Townsend…Sax, whistle & bass clarinet

Amanda Lehmann…vocals & guitar

Christine Townsend…Violin & Viola

Richard Stuart…Cello.










9/16/2011 10:42:19 AM

Cosmograf is to all intense and purpose Robin Armstrong a gifted multi-instrumentalist from Waterlooville near Portsmouth who sites Steven Wilson, Roger Waters and David Gilmour as some of his inspirations. This becomes evident when listening to the many effects throughout this interesting and thought provoking album which is based around the aging process and its effects on both mind and body. Some of the songs also convey Rob’s personal life experiences. For anyone like me who now find themselves more likely to be past the half way mark of their life the album does leave you pondering and even persuade personal reflection.

After the initial impressions have subsided and you stop judging events as an attempt to recreate Pink floydisms, this really is an excellent body of work. Porcupine Tree fans will hear a lot to like about this album as it does resemble some of their earlier work and Steven Wilson’s influence plainly obvious on Rob Armstrong’s style. All songs were recorded and mixed at Rob’s recording studio in Waterlooville with the exception of “White Light Awaits” which Lee Abraham mixed at his dockside studio in Southampton. All drums throughout were recorded at rob Aubrey’s infamous Aubitt Studio also located in Southampton and with the exception of one song played by It Bites drummer Bob Dalton. These West Country boys sure stick together.

Taking the CD out of the box the excellence of the booklet artwork is further extended to the disc itself. The Roman numerals of a clock face around its circumference it exudes the Hypnosis style and quality.  All credit must be given to Graeme Bell for making the superb illustrations not only great to look at but relative to the musical content of the album. Both lyrics and credits are clearly legible against the dark colours of the cosmos.

A ticking clock, a telephone ringing and a crying baby give way to muted piano and Robin Armstrong’s cynical tones as “Into this world” opens the proceedings in a fairly bleak way. It really showcased Robin’s musical competency and talent. As well as keyboards, bass and vocals he played some mean guitar making for a wonderful finale. “Blacksmith’s Hammer finds Robin in fine song inflecting folk like tints to this much lighter lilting song.  Electric and acoustic guitar complemented each other nicely. I couldn’t help thinking that Robin sounded very much like Nick Barrett of Pendragon, none more so than his reflective ramblings of “On Which We Stand”. Again, electric and acoustic guitar set against a huge church organ pad. It even had me thinking of Barclay James Harvest.

Amidst the various sound effects and memories of the seventies “Bakerlite Switch” despite its darkness reminded me of better days. Lyrics and themes of the day were included to great effect and a guitar solo from The Tangent’s axe man Luke Machin make for a special moment.

“Memory Lost” finds Hugh Lloyd Jones on vocal duties. I found this to be a rather sad song and Robin Armstrong’s guitar was literally bleeding backed by a huge keyboard orchestration. I seemed to identify with this song and its message. Bob Dalton’s drums sounded powerful and passionate, very impressive. The recital of a poem entitled “Growing Old by Tom O’Bedlam makes for a solemn beginning of “When Age Has Done Its Duty”. At 13:02 it is the longest song on the album. A master stroke was getting Steve Thorne to sing both the lead and backing vocals on this masterpiece. Many would consider this song to be morose and to be honest I think if you are of a certain age you may find it a little disturbing, however, the aging process is by its very nature disturbing. Thought provoking and interesting is how I would describe it. All credit to Rob Armstrong for putting his heart and soul into the guitar solo here.

The sound of a draft coming from somewhere actually made me shiver as the fading tones of an ECG machine signalled the beginning of “White Light Awaits”. Headlong into neo-Prog laced with electronic overtones, Robin is joined by lee Abraham playing slipknot-like guitar and bass whilst The Tangent’s Dave Ware gives it large with a slightly heavier hand than his predecessor. Concluding this powerful yet poignant opus is a more delicate piece “Dog On The Clee”. Quite haunting and what is I think a fitting finale to an album that kept me engrossed from start to finish. I would thoroughly recommend that you check out the Cosmograf website www.cosmograf.co.uk should you want to know more about this intriguing musical journey. At £9’99 including P&P it is worth every penny. There are two more albums available by Cosmograf and we will be checking both of them out. This one is definitely worth adding to your collection though.


Available from…








9/13/2011 5:34:54 AM

Continuing from where BC-Ancestors left off Mandalaband4 collect some new contributors along the way. Steeped in historical intrigue and moving into the story of the Holy Grail but not as the booklet denotes one that we would know, AD-Sangreal (Holy Grail)  takes the listener on another fascinating journey. On a sadder note the album features the last recording of Woolly Wolstenholme who took his own life following a severe bout of depression. A very sad loss indeed, his contribution to this album makes it all the more special.

A fairly sombre beginning to the album is “A Bloodline Lost”, Marc Atkinson delivering the lyrical narrative clearly and concisely. What seems to be a delicate sonnet soon turns into a huge soundstage of chorale and orchestration which to be honest leaves you asking the question, How the hell have they done that with the resources available? Reading the credits of which there is a track by track inclusion in the luxury CD booklet, you realise that apart from having very gifted musicians on-board, David Rohl and cohort Jose Manuel Medina share between them a wealth of technical skill and know-how and it shows throughout the whole of the production.  

The scale and mood continues with “Magdalena” giving the song a very west end musical feel. The same can be said for many of the songs on the album and it would be very easy to imagine a theatrical production of both AD-Sangreal and its predecessor. This is testament to just how much imagery the delicate and powerful highs and lows of this extraordinary album invokes and plainly seen in the mind’s eye.

A fanfare heralds the arrival of “Palatium Britannicum” Hard to believe that the band themselves achieve such a huge chorale sound with only a few singers. Ashley Mulford singing the lion’s share of the words and some subtle inclusion of Celtic whistle and Uilleann pipes courtesy of the gifted Troy Donockley. Who also helps out with guitar duty on “England’s Heart and soul” where David Rohl’s rich, mellow voice relaxes you into listening avidly to every syllable he sings. A song for the patriotic methinks!

“Sancto Laurent” Finds David a little more upbeat and using lots of brass sounds to make this song stand out from all the others without losing the main theme and character of the whole for one minute. This song moves seamlessly into “Flight To Osca” which includes Ashley Mulford playing some excellent guitar licks as well as rhythm guitar too. There are some great moments on this album and this is one of them.

“Visigoths” has you reaching for a history book such is the shear want to understand what the song is all about. Another merit I think that makes the album a must have. Infact I found that there is two ways you can listen to this musical artwork, one is to just sit back and enjoy it’s splendour the other is to sit and read the sleeve notes or even further research the meaning of the various events portrayed. Ashley Mulford’s guitar again steals the show here.

“Saracens” is an all-out Arabic musical portrait and features Troy Donockley playing a myriad of instruments including a bouzouki. David’s voice beautifully augmented by the lilting backing vocals of mother and daughter Barbara and BrionyMacanas. Beware the scary voice towards the end of this song. My guess is that it is David Rohl talking through a vocoda. I was listening late at night and it frightened the life out of me.

“Al-Andalus” gives me the impression of being informative and is perhaps the least inspiring song on the album and still it’s pretty darned good. Moving headlong into “Unholy Orders” finds Ashley Mulford in fine voice as well as playing some great blues guitar. David Rohl  adding a little Hammond B3 to the mix, further adding to the blues tinge of this wickedly good outing soon moves back to the epic and grand scale of “The King Of Aragon”. A much more delicate vocal presentation by dave Durant makes for a very special moment here with some great keyboard additions by Woolly Wolstenholme.

“Holy Orders” had me thinking of enigma such was the use of Gregorian style backing vocals and even the Amen at the end. “Le Perche Val brings a massive band effort with troy Donockley’s Celtic whistle reminding me very much of Capercaillie. This spills into the next song “Anfortas Rex” which despite having less musical contributors maintains the scale and spaciousness of the other formidable pieces throughout.

Not detracting from what is an amazing album, the highlight for me was the inclusion of the Barclay James Harvest “Galadriel”. Not only was it a fitting tribute to the late woolly Wolstenholme but an amazing rendition of an already great song. The sweetness of woolly’s voice making it even sadder about the event that would occur shortly after recording it. A further tribute is the musical dexterity shown by the other musicians playing on this piece and I do have to admit to feeling quite emotional whilst listening to it.

In conclusion, both BC-Ancestors and AD-Sangreal are to me a musical adventure. Beautifully packaged with some of Ed Utisky’s best artwork and illustrations I consider the acquisition of both albums money well spent. Elaborate notes about the albums historical content can be found in the superb sixteen page booklet. Whether you become as captivated with its historical content as I did or simply love its themes and magnificence AD-Sangreal is an album exuding quality and sewn like a silk tapestry. Mandalaband5 is presently under construction. Who knows what to expect? I for one can’t wait.

want to know more about mandalaband or buy the album go to...



3 items total

October, 2009
November, 2009
December, 2009
February, 2010
March, 2010
April, 2010
May, 2010
July, 2010
August, 2010
September, 2010
October, 2010
November, 2010
December, 2010
January, 2011
February, 2011
March, 2011
April, 2011
June, 2011
July, 2011
August, 2011
September, 2011
October, 2011
November, 2011
December, 2011
January, 2012
HomeAbout The ProgmeisterNews and EventsImage GalleryBlogFeaturesAlbum ReviewsDVD/Book ReviewsRegistrationFavorite LinksContact Me