Another huge, unwieldy and never-likely-to-be-finished Trollheart project begins!
As I listen to playlists on my ipod, I'm constantly amazed by some of the really great stuff I've downloaded over the years, a large percentage of it prog. These are albums, sometimes artists I have never heard of, and never listened to. In an attempt to address this, here's what I'm going to do now.

Going alphabetically through my collection I'll stop at each prog arist (cos, you know, I have other music too) and if I haven't heard anything/all by them I'll choose one album, see what it's like and move on. It's a journey not for the faint-hearted or the non-prog fan (and if you are one, what the hell are you doing here? Don't you read thread titles?); there could be much disappointment and boredom along the way, but we may also discover wonders and delights to sate the soul, or something. Of course, you'll have to leave your loved ones for an extended period of time... what's that? You have no loved ones? Well that's handy, isn't it?

If you dare then,

and let's see where our journey takes us first.
Just watch out for the sentinels! Don't worry: we're safe inside this craft.

So we begin, rather obviously, in the A folder. Let's navigate through and see what we can find.

First off we have A Bad Think. Well, silly name aside, and resisting the urge to call them A Bad Stink, I can only see that they're characterised as "rock", so that doesn't really help. Still, they don't show up on Prog Archives so I can assume with some confidence that they're not prog. Slide on by, and we come to A Flock of Seagulls. They're not prog. No, no they're not. New-Wave, Electronic, but not prog. Let's move on. How about these guys? A Forest of Stars? Nah. Post-rock, my son. Oh and you can forget that A Hero for the World: some sort of musical about Jesus I got tricked into buying. I mean, it's all right, if I remember from the one time I listened to it, my heart sinking further with each realisation of what it was, but it sure ain't prog.

A Perfect Day seems, after some searching and a trip to Bandcamp, to be a one-man project with dream pop, post-rock and shoegaze overtones, but nothing about prog, while A Skylit Drive registers as post-hardcore. Hmm. What's this coming up on the right? Ah, yes. A Sound of Thunder. Great band, but not prog in any way, shape or form.

Ah, here we go! First stop. Do NOT exit the shuttle. Remember those guardians?. What? Oh yeah. Sentinels. Whatever. You don't want to go messing with them. Help yourself to industry grade headphones, grab a beer and put your feet up while we check these guys out.

Artist: A.C.T
Nationality: Swedish
Sub-genre: Eclectic Prog
Formed: 1994
Number of albums: 5
Owned by me: 5
Listened to: 1
Album selected: Last Epic, 2003
Position in discography: 3rd

Comments: Starts out very orchestral, very short intro and then into an uptempo keyboard-driven "Wailings From a Building", courtesy of Jerry Sahlin, great hook and I like the vocal harmonies. Is that a female singer? No. No it isn't, Herman Saming is definitely male but his voice certainly sounds a little feminine. Interestingly, despite the album title there are in fact no epics on this album, in fact the longest track is a mere six minutes. Quite a sense of both Queen and ELO here, touches of It Bites too. I very much like this, and we're only on track one. Not including the intro. "Mr.Landlord" has a lot of Saga about it, kind of a carnival atmosphere to it. The It Bites comparisons keep coming. More string arrangements for a moment before we head into another uptempo and upbeat track on "Torn By a Phrase", dropping back to a simple acoustic guitar from Ola Andersson for the verse before taking off on swirling keys for the choruses. Very much a sense of Manfred Mann's "Davy's On the Road Again" in the melody.

Absolutely gorgeous combination of violin, cello and vocoder (!) makes "Ted's Ballad" something very special, driven on soft piano with some fine ELO-style backing vocals, then other than the intro and the outro the shortest track is "Dance of Mr. Gumble", which allows the guitarist to really have his head and go wild, some fine orchestral hits helping the melody out here, and I assume given the fact that it runs for barely over two minutes it's an instrumental. Yes it is. "Wake Up" has an almost reggae feel to it, strutting along arrogantly, then turns into a sort of Beatles pastiche. Again some sumptuous violin and cello is added here. The tempo remains high but returns to a more rocky, slightly harder tone with the longest track, "Manipulator", showcasing another fine hook in the chorus, that carnival sound coming back in about halfway, while "A Loaded Situation" brings a more dramatic feel to the album, with grinding guitar and a very Yes-style  keyboard run from Sahlin, who also handles the strings arrangements and vocoder, the latter put to good use here in what I feel may be another instrumental.

And so it is, and on we go into "The Observer", strident piano driving the tune along, Anderson's powerful guitar riffs adding their voice too - though here the melody seems a little fractured and confused for me, hard to follow. Vocoder in a very ELO style takes us into the far superior "The Cause" with the welcome return of the hook and an almost ABBA feel to it (not kidding) while "The Effect" seems to more or less maintain the same basic melody, lots of orchestral strings here, mostly cello I think, guest female vocals from Sara Svensson and we end (more or less) on "The Summary" which bops along with almost a new-wave idea allied to the most lush keyboard lines, bouncing guitar and a lovely slow section in the middle which gives both the orchestra and the backing vocalists a chance to shine once more, and then the outro bookends the album, one minute of cello violin and viola but with added vocal harmonies. Superb.

Track Listing and Ratings*

1. Intro (7)
2. Wailings From A Building (9)
3. Mr. Landlord (9)
4. Torn By A Phrase (8.0)
5. Ted's Ballad (10)
6. Dance Of Mr. Gumble (8.0)
7. Wake Up (8.0)
8. Manipulator (8.0)
9. A Loaded Situation (7)
10. The Observer (6)
11. The Cause (8.0)
12. The Effect (7)
13. Summary (9)
14. Outro (10)

* I'll be rating each track on a scale from 1 to 10; note: I have to put a decimal point after the 8, as otherwise it makes it into a smiley no matter what I do.

What did I like about this album? Absolutely everything. Many prog bands tend to be very stiff, serious, up themselves about their music. A.C.T. are different; they have fun playing their music, and while it may not be the case that all their lyrics are upbeat (I haven't looked into the lyrics) they certainly come across that way. All musicians are top notch here, singer is great and the usage of orchestra and vocoder really adds to the compositions, but is not overused or pushed in your face too much. Again, breaking with the majority of prog bands (though in fairness they are described as eclectic prog) there are no really long songs here, no suites or anything. Nothing overstays its welcome, and the album is well bookended by the intro and outro.

What did I not like about this album? Hardly anything. The only track I was a little lukewarm on was "The Observer", but I liked even that. Otherwise, nothing to complain about.

Will I be listening to more? Hell yes.

Album rating
(Here I'm going to use an old system I used to employ, showing a speedometer. The "faster" the speedometer goes, the better the album. I have no hesitation in awarding this the highest rating right out of the box).

#1 Feb 23, 2023, 08:31 PM Last Edit: Mar 04, 2023, 10:20 PM by Trollheart
Moving on as we make our way through the A Folder...

Well, everyone loves ABBA, but no way are they prog. What about Abraham Music Project? Can't say I've ever heard of them. Let's check them out. Well, I see Lee Abraham; we'll be checking him out later. Has this anything to do with him? It would appear not. What else can I find out about the artist? Well apparently the prevalent wisdom is that yes, this is prog, at least partially. So let's give it a spin, shall we? And can I once again ask you all to remain in your seats? We do not want to lose any more of y ... not that we did lose any of you ... that memory-supressant is still working I hope? Good, good. So stay inside: there's nothing out there but blackness and cold, colder and blacker than a Florida Republican's heart, and it's warm in here. There's also beer. And music. What kind of music? Let's find out.

Artist: Abraham
Nationality: American
Formed: 2019
Number of albums:  1
Owned by me:  1
Listened to:  0
Album selected: Abraham Music Project, 2019
Position in discography:  1

Comments: Seems this guy is one of those who either couldn't afford a second name, or thinks it's more cool and mysterious to just use the one. Anyway the only information I can dig up on him is that he worked with other bands before striking out on his own, is a composer and multi-instrumentalist, and has some vague connection to Supertramp. Right. Tagline is "First the honesty, then the promise". Well, it's better than "first the money, then the music" isn't it? Anyway, according to the esteemed Prog Magazine, "Aor marries prog rockin fine fashion". Sounds lovely. Nice sweet guitar opening and for some reason I thought "Horizon" would be an instrumental. Must have been thinking of Genesis. Good singer, if it's him, sort of a sense of Alan Parsons about the music with a touch of maybe Pendragon in there too. Sort of a semi-ballad with a lot of crooning and some vocoder work too; a very good start.

There's very much a sense of ELO on "Mr. Mastermind", impressive vocal harmonies, though whether they're all him or not I can't tell you as there is very little information on this guy. Discogs don't got it, Wiki shrugs and even the mighty ProgArchive looks embarrassed never to have heard of him. His own website gives the track listing but that's about it. No actual details other than a lot of faff about how great he is, which to be honest after two tracks I find myself agreeing to. I will say this though: he notes many of the artists he has "worked with" - whether that's writing, composing, playing or producing I don't know, it's all a little vague - including Paul McCartney, Santana and, as already mentioned, Supertramp, there's no clarification as to what he did with who, and I kind of find myself wondering if he was a session musician or something?

Well, whatever, he certainly knows his way around a song, and I've no complaints so far. "Here I Am" is a much more uptempo, almost country style of song with a large slice of AOR and not the smallest pinch of pop. I'm not so sure about this one to be honest. Yeah this one is just silly, with its kind of African chant and I keep expecting ****ing Black Lace to dance in any moment and start singing about pushing pineapples and shaking trees. Bollocks. There's also not much in the song. It's a pass on this one. "One Day at a Time" gets things back on track with a stately guitar intro and some fine piano, the first ballad I would say. There's a very epic, dramatic feel to this, its grandeur making "Here I Am" more silly by the minute, but luckily it's easy to forget now, a rapidly-disappearing bump on the road barely visible in the rearview as we power ahead.

Another power ballad in "Two by Two", with some fine evocative guitar and a sort of slow blues beat. Some very good vocal harmonies and backing vocals here, kind of a sense of gospel about this too. Touches of Queen in the chorus, while there's a much heavier guitar powering through "Resist the Devil", perhaps as you might expect with a title like that. Some superb organ too. Turns out this is an instrumental, quite a dirty rock one to be fair. Can't say I love it but it's not bad. The epic then is the "GLORY BE Suite" (yeah, the first two words are written in capitals like that) and it opens on a really nice vocal harmony against a soft acoustic guitar, picking up a little speed as it goes along, the whole thing running for over sixteen minutes. It seems to be some sort of concept (or maybe the whole album is) with the main protagonist called Horizon, so go figure; I haven't enough - or indeed really any - information to work out what the thing is about.

It goes into a powerful uptempo proggy keyboard instrumental in the fifth minute, then slows on a sort of church organ thing which gives way to a soaring guitar solo and borrows rather a lot I think from Yes around the 90125 era. Very nice slow sort of trumpeting keyboard run in the eighth minute, and vocoder with choral vocals, hear a lot of Pallas in this too, as well as Twelfth Night. There's a lot of really good instrumentation in this piece, in fact I'd say about eighty percent of it is instrumental, however I would have to allow that it's not quite what you'd call original, as for me, Abraham draws a little too liberally on influences from other artists, as mentioned. Not that he's copying them, but you can definitely hear those bands in his music.

"There You Are" is another short little bopper, but a million times better than "Here I Am" (I imagine that's intended, that they're both kind of the same title) and this one has a much more singalong melody and a catchy tune with some cool brass. I know for a fact I've heard "Hey You! Come Back with My Heart" (mostly because it's one of the most stupid and annoying titles I've ever heard) but I don't know where. I thought it was Cressida, but it appears not. Anyway I can assume then that this is a cover, as is the final track, the Beatles song "Dear Prudence". I don't think much of the former, and sure everyone knows the latter, and he makes a good job of it.

Track Listing and Ratings

1. Horizon (9)
2. Mr. Mastermind (8.0)
3. Here I Am (5)
4. One Day at a Time (10)
5. Two by Two (9)
6. Resist the Devil (5)
7. The GLORY BE Suite (8.0)
8. There You Are (8.0)
9. Hey You! Come Back with My Heart (2)
10. Dear Prudence (6)

What did I like about this album? Very good instrumentation, the guy can sing and can certainly compose. Might have preferred more keyboard and the covers were a bit pointless, but overall decent.

What did I not like about this album? After such a gushing review and introduction, while the music was good it was not life-changing. Not that it needed to be, but I really expected something better than special, and while it was not a disappointment in any way, I'm not now salivating for the next album, if there is one. I could also have done without the covers and the guitar solo instrumental was just wank. I find myself wondering is there an undercurrent of Christianity here, listening to the lyrics of some of the songs. It's not mentioned or hinted at, but there's a sneaking suspicion of a quiet, unobtrusive agenda here.

Will I be listening to more? If there's another album I'll probably give it a go, though I won't be waiting in anticipation for it. I get the feeling, however, that this may be it for this guy.

Album rating

Prog Rating:

Next up is Abysse. After some searching I find them to be a post-metal/instrumental metal band with some ambient overtones, so not prog, and then we have Acacia. Now I know of them, and I think they're some sort of goth - no, it seems they're prog metal, although weirdly they don't show up on PA. MA (Metal Archives) has them though and confirms they're prog metal, so we'll do them next.

Artist: Acacia
Nationality: Italian
Sub-genre: Prog Metal
Formed: 1990
Number of albums:  2
Owned by me:  1
Listened to:  0
Album selected:  Deeper Secrets, 1996 (Hey, it's the only one I got!)
Position in discography:  1

Comments: Okay, well in my experience a band who formed in 1990, had one album and then broke up and reformed over twenty years later (with the aptly-titled Resurrection) are either a band who didn't need to live again, or who were criminally underrated on their first album. Which is it? The opening track does exactly what it says on the tin: it's just some words being spoken, less than a minute, then "I Don't Believe" takes a little while to get going with some atmospheric guitar, vocal sounds a little muddy, some screeches and yells seeming unnecessary to me, as if the guy thinks he's on stage, percussion very hollow and weak, can't say I'm impressed. At this point, the only good thing is the guitar, very low-key Iron Maiden/Threshold, but it's not enough to hold this together and it seems very weak and disjointed.

Next one sounds like it might be a ballad, again the guitar is the main feature. I certainly don't like the singer's voice, which seems very strained. Okay no it's not a ballad as it's now kicking up on again a very Maiden riff. Yeah basically just pretty boring and generic. Does the title of "The Day Begins to Droop" seem like it might be a prophecy? At this point it kind of does, but it at least starts off with a nice sax or clarinet or something, surely a ballad this time; yer man behind the mike ruins it though - he really is a terrible singer, or at least I don't rate his vocal at all. Again I've lost interest, though it seemed to start off okay, and the next one is an instrumental, so much the better without himself and I can listen to it much more easily. In fact, if this band were an instrumental one, or had a better singer, I might like them better. As it is, he's ruining it for me.

Like on "Funerals of State", where his singing is just the worst, and I have to have a word of contempt for the drummer too, who seems to be just aimlessly hitting his kit. You know, there's no information on who produced this, and I wonder if that's because either the band did, or whoever is responsible does not want to admit it? It is quite honestly one of the worst production jobs I've heard in a long time. Everything sounds tinny, muffled, no bass, no clarity, muddy. Just awful. Whoever is to blame should hang their head, even if they may not have had that much to work with in the first place. This is awful. "Why" sort of encapsulates my feelings on this album: why did they bother? Well to be fair it's a decent piano ballad and even the vocalist rises to the challenge a little, and the sax is back, not quite to save the day, but it helps.

Which leaves us with just two more before I can finally bid farewell forever to Acacia, the fast Italian speech at the beginning of "Nothing New" not giving me any hope we might have turned a corner, and if we have, it's only into the onrushing headlights of a big truck as we return to the awful singing and frankly boring rock which I find hard to qualify either as prog or metal. But on the plus side, we're getting to the end. Be thankful for small mercies, as the closer is another instrumental. It's nice, but very much the exception here.

Track Listing and Ratings

1. Sibran's Words
2. I Don't Believe (3)
3. Behind the Lies (3)
4. The Day Begins to Droop (5)
5. Palermo (7)
6. Funerals of State (3)
7. Why (6)
8. Nothing New (3)
9. Tears of Life (7)

What did I like about this album? not much really. Guitar work was nice and the instrumental tracks were good.

What did I not like about this album? The production was beyond woeful, the singing was atrocious and the drumming sounded really amateur, and most of the songs were not in the least engaging.

Will I be listening to more? I will not.

Prog Rating:

Album rating

After Acacia we have Acacia Avenue. Originally, I of course assumed these would be a heavy metal band, using the title of the track off Iron Maiden's third album, but no, turns out they're AOR/Melodic Rock, which is great and all, but not prog.

Looks like they only have the one album, as it goes. Anyway, they're no use to use so we swing a hard left off the AOR hoverway and see if we can come across any prog. Well now this is a strange one. We had A.C.T. earlier, but now we have A.C.T! (with an exclamation mark) and though this could simply be misfiling on my part, it would appear the only album I have from this band is not on the discography list for A.C.T. Right well I've checked and no, ACT! Are some sort of electronic band, so nothing again to do with prog. We move on.

Hey! Who ate all the crisps? Yes yes, potato chips, if you must! The question remains valid: who ate them? They were supposed to be for everyone. I don't know, hungry bastards. Oh wait, what's that up ahead? I do believe I know these guys. I've heard one, maybe two albums from them; one for sure. So what do I choose? Oh hell! One of them has a cover of "Fame" on it? I can't pass that up can I?

No. No I can't.

Artist: Adagio
Nationality: French
Sub-genre: Prog Metal
Active: 2000 - 2018
Status: On hiatus (probably really broken up)
Number of albums:  5
Owned by me:  5
Listened to:  1
Album selected:  Dominate, 2006
Position in discography:  3 of 5

Comments: I listened to and was very impressed with Underworld, the album prior to this, though seem to recall being less that blown away by the other one I heard, their debut, 2000's Sanctus Ignis. This falls kind of in the middle, so let's see if it's a case of it being one great album of five that I listened to, or whether Sanctus Ignis was the exception to the rule. Metal Archives also has Adagio under Symphonic and Power Metal, and it's definitely the latter you're put in mind of when the album begins, kind of sounds a little Kamelot to me. There's certainly a lot of energy and purpose about "Fire Forever", and from the off this sounds a little less dense than Underground, though it has been some time since I last listened to that album. More of a symphonic feel them to "Arcanas Tenebrae/Dominate" - why it's split in two I don't know, but it runs into another power metal style and if I didn't already know Adagio I would have thought this had been mislabelled.

Oddly enough, PA has the first two tracks reversed in its listing, with "Fire Forever" coming first. The dark, "unclean" vocals certainly add more to the sense of this being more on the side of metal than prog, and now we have a scratchy, screechy vocal too, one which belongs more on a black metal record in my opinion. I mean, it's good stuff, but is it  prog? The jury are sequestered in a hotel, deliberating upon this question even as I write. Some fine keyboard runs certainly, but again, does that make it prog? The similarities to Kamelot keep coming, and I wouldn't question their prog credentials, so maybe. "Terror Jungle" punches you in the face with a big guitar attack, but then there's some sweet little introspective fretwork too, like almost on a sitar or mandolin, though I doubt that's what it is. Sort of went by though without making much of an impression, and we're into "Children of the Dead Lake".

The thing that differentiates this is the superb piano playing of Kevin Codfert, which was also a factor on Underworld, I remember remarking at the time. Other than that though, this track also seems fairly generic sort of power/prog metal with not much to make it stand out in my memory after it's over. But it's one of the better ones, which at this moment, sadly, is not saying much. This album is not quite proving a disappointment exactly, but it's not making me want to hear more. Spooky piano leads in "R'lyeh the Dead", which I believe is something to do with Lovecraft? Maybe. Anyway there's a dramatic, symphonic background to this, very dark and brooding with some choral vocals (probably on synth) and it makes me think of a Danny Elfman movie soundtrack or something for Harry Potter.

Hard guitar and unclean vocals make this seem almost more of an instrumental, though I note this is an album without them - instrumentals - which I find a little  unusual. Not that there are none like that, but usually you get one, even if it's only an intro or outro, especially on a prog album, or one purporting to be. Lots of keyboard passages, so if anything on this album is prog in nature I'd say this comes closest, though it's hard to reconcile that with the unclean vocals. Nice piano outro, and piano carries us into "The Darkitecht" with a sombre, moody feel, dark synth and growling guitar also in attendance, some great keyboard arpeggios and solos, then "Kissing the Crow" appears to be the piano ballad, with nice vocal harmonies and a lush synth backdrop, almost orchestral. Way too short though, shortest track on the album. And then it closes with a madcap cover of "Fame", which is great fun.

Track Listing and Ratings

1. Fire Forever (7)
2. Arcanas Tenebrae/Dominate (6)
3. Terror Jungle (5)
4. Children of the Dead Lake (7)
5. R'lyeh the Dead (7)
6. The Darkitecht (6)
7. Kissing the Crow (9)
8. Fame (Yeah...)

What did I like about this album? Musicianship is very good, a fair amount of keys and some lovely piano. And "Fame". Gotta love that.

What did I not like about this album? Death vocals, a little too much guitar, too much metal, not enough of the songs are different so that they kind of blend together.

Will I be listening to more? I may, but I don't think I'll be in any hurry to.

Prog Rating:

Album rating: