Maschera Di Cera [Italy]
Updated 2/10/06

La Mascera Di Cera (02)
Il Grande Labirinto (03)
In Concerto (04, Live)
Luxade (06)
Maschera Di Cera is an evolution from Finisterre, begun in 2001 by their bassist Fabio Zuffanti. He was soon joined by Agostino Macor (keyboards) and Marco Cavani (drums), both from Finisterre. Completing the original line-up was Alessandro Corvaglia (lead voice, acoustic guitar) and Andrea Monetti (flutes, saxes). In 2003, Maurizio di Tollo of Distillerie di Malto replaced Cavani on drums. The last two studio albums were produced by PFM drummer Franz Di Cioccio. -- Fred Trafton
[See Distillerie di Malto | Finisterre]

Click here for Maschera Di Cera's web site

Másfél [Hungary]
Updated 9/6/01

Mese/Tale (93, Cassette)
Kínai Nátha/Chinese flu (94)
Viperagarzon/Viperflat (96)
Villamos/Tram (97, Audio & Data CD)
Katasztrófamámor/Flush of catastrophe (98, Audio & Data CD)
Angyaltojás/Angel's egg (00, Audio & Data CD)
Rádióbarátnõ/Radiogirlfriendly (00, Remix)
Másfél - (In no particular order) Attila Bácsi (guitar), János Hegedüs (bass), Tamás Kalocsai (drums until 1998), Zoltán Ujj (drums from 1998), Levente Lukács (sax), Eszter Salamon (cello since 1996)

Here we go again, trying to categorize the uncategorizable. Másfél uses a huge array of styles merged into something new that is all their own. Musically, there are bits of Punkish Metal (in the guitar playing), Techno (in the rhythms), Classical (in the violins and cellos), and Acid Jazz (in the sax playing), perhaps even some Arabic flavoring (or is that Hungarian folk music?).

As I listen, I am sequentially reminded of Snakefinger, Bill Nelson's Red Noise, The Sex Pistols, Philip Glass, Fred Frith or This Heat, but they don't really sound like any of them. So is that a useless explanation or what? But it's the best I can do. Click below to surf over to their web site and try out some MP3's of their stuff. See if you can do any better than me. I can't describe it, but I do know that I like it! -- Fred Trafton

Heavy duty instrumental power band that released some very energetic "in your face" albums loaded with some of the most intense bass riffs ever to be pressed onto CD. If you liked the intensity of Osanna, Másfél may even be more intense but in a modern way. Features a guitarist (amazing), Saxophonist, bass guitarist, cellist and percussionist. I have Viperagarzon and Katasztrófamámor. Katasztrófamámor ("Rush of Catastrophe") is an all out attack on the senses with it's bombastic repeating riffs, pumping saxophones, crushing bass licks, heavy duty guitar solos and such. Katasztrófamámor leaves me out of breath much the same way that Osanna's Palepoli did. -- Betta
Click here for Másfél's web site

Masque [Japan]
Updated 3/4/05

Ingress One (86)
Masque (89)
Third Ear - Third Eye (97)
Excellent Japanese instrumental band which operates in the jazz-rock mode, not far from bands like Kenso and Black Page, but a little more sustained and less elaborate. They are featured on some of the Japanese sampler CDs, such as Canterbury Edge and Jazz-Rock Collection, both on the Made in Japan label. The only releases are cassettes, except for Ingress One which is LP.
Third Ear - Third Eye is the band's first CD release. -- Fred Trafton

Masque [Sweden]

Flesh that Understands (92), Ten Ways (94)

Masque is a Swedish band, based in Gothenburg (second largest city in Sweden). They released their first CD this year on a French label. The music is quite similar to how Saga used to sound in the early days. Since the texts are written by a poet, they are quite advanced and this kept the reviewers grade down when they were judged in the papers. I think the record is available in Europe, while America is more uncertain but it is of course available by mail from the record company.

New band on Musea. Their only release to date is Flesh That Understands. Their sound is neo, but overall not derivative sounding, with the exception of a couple pop tracks that sound like Saga. The balance of the album is well thought-out and explores plenty of original ideas. The playing is tight and the vocals are excellent, plus good lyrics to boot.

Massacre [Chile]
Updated 3/4/05

Massacre (89)

Massacre [USA]
Updated 3/4/05

Killing Time (81)
Funny Valentine (98) Meltdown (01)
Around 1980 Fred Frith was joined by Bill Lasswell and Fred Maher (both from Material) to form the short-lived band Massacre. The trio (guitar, bass, drums) recorded one LP that was published by Celluloid in 1981. This turned out to become a RIO classic that was re-issued on CD by RecRec with a couple of bonus tracks. In 1998 Lasswell, Frith and Charles Hayward (This Heat, Quiet Sun) joined for a recording session for a second Massacre album. Funny Valentine is improvisational rock at its best! -- Achim Breiling
[See Frith, Fred | Material | Quiet Sun | This Heat]

Mastedon [USA]
Updated 3/4/05

It's a Jungle Out There (89)
Lofcaudio (90)
Elephante post-Kansas. A lot like his version of Kansas but with Christian-rock overtones. Recommended: Lofcaudio.
A christian metal band ... that's all I know.
[See Kansas]

Mastermind [USA]
Updated 8/8/00

Mastermind Volume One (90) (Another review here)
Volume Two: Brainstorm (92)
III ~ Tragic Symphony (94)
IV ~ Until Eternity (96)
Excelsior! (99)
Angels of the Apocalypse (00) (Another review here)
Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather & Sweat (00, Live)
Mastermind started as just a duo, Bill and Rich Berends, brothers from New Jersey. Music, lyrics, guitar, bass and faux-keyboards (actually a guitar-controlled MIDI setup) were handled masterfully by brother Bill, while Rich pounded out complex drumming and sang. In the beginning, ELP was always mentioned in the same breath as Mastermind, because of the obvious influence they had on the music, despite the lack of "real" keyboards.

As time went on, Mastermind began to sound less and less like ELP and began to have their own identity, though the music stayed true to their "old-fashioned progressive" beginnings. Rich's vocals were never the high point of Mastermind, but they were getting better with each album. By the time of Tragic Symphony they were actually not too bad, but with Excelsior! and the addition of keyboardist Jens Johansson, they abandoned Rich's vocals completely and did an all-instrumental album. At the same time, the music began to leave the 70's prog sound behind, and the move towards a more progressive metal sound began, though this album also has a lot of jazzy influences.

With the release of Angels of the Apocalypse, Mastermind's first release on a major label (Inside Out), the move towards progressive metal was complete. The addition of powerful "mezzo soprano vocal" by Lisa Bouchelle also adds to the difference in the band's sound. In spite of the cover of ELP's "Endless Enigma" on this CD, the "power keyboard band without keyboards" was completely gone. Personally, though I also enjoy the new sound of Angels, I'm going to miss the old Mastermind. There's plenty of ProgMetal to go around these days, but there was only one Mastermind. In my opinion, the diversity in the progressive rock world is a little bit poorer for the change. -- Fred Trafton

Addendum: Bill Berends wrote me a very nice note to let me know that he was "to blame" for the vocals on the early Mastermind albums, not Rich. How embarassing ... I must have misread this when I originally read the liner notes for the first Mastermind CD, and I've had this wrong all these years. Sorry about that, Bill. In addition, he wanted to make sure that everyone knew that Mastermind is from New Jersey, not "the Midwest" as mentioned in another review here.

Mastermind is a progressive band based in the Midwest, whose debut on CD is an excellent work, influenced to a large extent by ELP. One notable feature of this release is that no keyboards are used (!). The leader, Bill Berends, uses a MIDI-equipped guitar synthesizer to trigger keyboard sounds. From the sound, though, you would swear that he was playing all those fiery lead passages on those classic Moogs of yesteryear ! Of the nine tracks, three are instrumental. Highly recommended for all ELP-philes. Volume Two: Brainstorm is the second release from the ELP-influenced band that does not use any keyboards! All the Keith Emerson-style leads are still performed on a MIDI-fied guitar, articulated perfectly.
A new progressive trio from New Jersey. They manage to combine some excellent compositions with a distinctive '90s sound. The driving force behind the band is one Bill Berends and his guitar-synth, who writes all of the band's original material, along with his brother and Drummer Rich Berends. Bass is capably provided by Phil Antolino. There are no keyboards here, dont be fooled just because you hear something reminiscent of ELP...It's all guitar ! Comparisons might also be made with '70s Canadian trio FM, or the Japanese progressive outfit Social Tension, but they really have a unique cutting-edge sound with some energized hyper-drive guitar riffs and great vocals. They also have a knack (as ELP did) for butchering the classics - the versions of "Ride of the Valkyrie" and "William Tell Overture" on Brainstorm smoke from beginning to end. Both albums highly recommended.
Charging into the nineties is the US power duo Mastermind. They play a melodic ELP-styled energetic and bombastic progressive rock. There is a warlike theme to their debut album ("Tidings of Battle," "A Call to Arms," "Eye of the Storm," and "War Machine") but it is not as harsh as ELP's Tarkus. The music, a heavy metal, jazz fusion, and progressive hybrid, propels you at a breakneck speed from the opening notes to the final chord. Rich Berends is a consummate drummer of infinite energy and he contributes almost as much to the music as the rich arrangements and virtuoso musicianship of his brother Bill. At that there are only three instrumentals out of the nine songs on this CD. The one "quiet" moment on this album is Long Distance Love Affair, a love ballad sounding like Depeche Mode on acid. Volume One is an outstanding debut album that sets the stage for their next CD Brainstorm. Brainstorm contains more music than Volume One and again is the stage for the Berends to show off their multi-talents. There is so much energy in this music that the disc almost floats by itself! Having established themselves with Volume One, Mastermind flexes their muscles (figuratively and actually) and begins to explore classical themes like their mentors ELP. Bill Berends interpretation of "Wagner's Ride of the Valkyrie" is the most accurate, bombastic, and energetic rendition I've heard. This song in concert would whip the crowd into a screaming howling frenzy! In addition their "William Tell Overture" is sure to bring you to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The title track "Brainstorm" is full of King Crimson Red-era savage guitar and drums. As on their previous effort, the music abounds with heavy metal guitar licks and lightning fast runs. Mastermind is a band to watch. They aspire to the fame and glory of ELP and I think they deserve it.
Ah, harken back to the days of Prime Prog when albums had multiple side-long suites, bombastic synthesizer relentlessly assaulting your frontal lobe. Add to that some of the most pretentious liner notes I have ever seen and it's no wonder progressive rock fell out of favor. But here we have a band that that takes those characters and wraps them up into a package called Volume 2: Brainstorm. OK, so the liner notes are pretentious: what about the music? Mastermind are the brothers Berends, Bill and Rich. Rich is a drummer who subscribes to the Carl Palmer school of drumming. He likes them loud, fast and furious. Brother Bill is the mastermind behind Mastermind as he writes all the songs, sings and plays everything except percussion. Bill plays guitar which he uses to control a rack of synthesizers to create a dense and aggressive sound that will immediately bring ELP to your mind. However, Bill's guitar (as a guitar) is the dominant force and he assaults your brain with scorching guitar licks for the entire 70 minutes of the album. At the end, you won't be surprised to find you've become a little numb. To be sure, Bill has got chops and uses them well. Occasionally he falls back on cliche and some of his changes among sections in the multi-part suites could be better, but as a whole Berends is an excellent and aggressive guitarist. Seventy minutes of assault such as that unleashed by Mastermind can be a bit difficult to take in one setting--I almost always break up the album into two sections. There are two long suites, the 21 minute "Brainstorm" and the 18 minute "Triumph of the Will." There is also a cover of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyrie" and Rossini's "William Tell Overture." Generally a fine album when taken in smaller doses but there is nothing pastoral about this band--keep that in mind when deciding if you want to hear it. Their first, Volume 1 is similar though the synth textures are a little more prominent which gives a stronger ELP feel. The vocals are not as clear on their second album. They produced both so I assume experience played a roll there. Phil Antolino, their bassist for live gigs also plays bass on this album. Overall, Volume 1 is a less mature effort in the composition department. Start with their second. I bet this stuff is intense in a live setting!
[See Johansson Brothers | Spastic Ink]

Click here for the Mastermind web site

Matching Mole [UK]
Updated 9/7/04

Matching Mole (72)
Matching Mole's Little Red Record (73)
Radio One Live In Concert (94, Recorded in 1972)
Smoke Signals (01, Live, recorded in 1972)
March (02, Live, recorded in March of 1972)
Matching Mole - (not in photo order) Phil Miller (guitar), Robert Wyatt (drums, vocals), Dave Sinclair (keyboards) and Bill McCormack (bass)

This group was founded by Phil Miller, and featured some of the stalwarts of the Canterbury scene, including Robert Wyatt and Dave Sinclair. Of their two releases, their first was the more, er, pastoral sounding, with much of that deriving from the presence of Wyatt. His haunting vocals are present on a few tracks, with the instrumentation very reminiscent of the group Egg. Little Red Record is the 1972 release by the Robert Wyatt/Phil Miller/Bill McCormick/Dave McRae line-up and is undoubtedly the quirkier of the two eclectic works by this band. Robert Fripp was the producer, and Brian Eno guested on synth on one of the tracks. The music is probably best described as Hatfield and The North meets Soft Machine meets Gong, with much of the latter's influence presumably stemming from Robert Wyatt's association with Daevid Allen.

Cool Canterbury band, albeit a bit strange, led by drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt (ex-Soft Machine) that featured Bill MacCormack on bass, Phil Miller on guitar and Dave Sinclair on keys. The sound is dominated by Wyatt's offbeat tunes and lyrical humor.
Matching Mole consisted of Canterbury luminaries Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine), Dave Sinclair (Caravan), Phil Miller (Hatfield and the North, National Health), and Bill McCormick. Their self-titled first is an excellent album featuring spacey improvisation and extended jamming, except for the first couple of tracks. These are dominated by Robert Wyatt's vocals and are somewhat melancholy and jazzy in nature. In a few places, some trademark Sinclair keyboards shine through, or a Phil Miller guitar lick will be evident, but overall this album represents a unique blend of ideas. Probably not the best place to start exploring the Canterbury scene, but their first album is a must-hear for the Canterbury fan. I haven't heard Little Red Record but I do know it features Dave McRae on keyboards instead of Dave Sinclair.
Imagine Hatfield and the North meets Robert Wyatt head on. Two great albums of Wyatt-driven Canterbury material ... very atmospheric and cool. Little Red Record is bizarre and has a strange version of "Oh Len's Nature" with lyrics which you'll find on the re-released CD of Hatfield's debut. In the liner notes, Robert Wyatt says that people thought they must have been mad or stoned when they did that but he recounts that the frightening thing was that they weren't :-)
Quite an impressive pedigree: Robert Wyatt from Soft Machine, Bill MacCormick from Quiet Sun and Dave Sinclair from Caravan, plus newcomer Phil Miller. The first album, however, is a pretty scattershot collection of songs and improvisations. The songs sound like leavings from a Wyatt solo album, not bad, but I thought this was supposed to be a GROUP. The improvisations are really far-out and may not exactly appeal to you in certain states of mind. Heavy use of Mellotron makes them resemble Tangerine Dream circa Alpha Centauri, honestly! Little Red Record is much more of a group effort. With ex-Nucleus keyboardist Dave Macrae replacing Sinclair (who had returned to Caravan), the band made a superb album of offbeat Canterbury fusion that provided the stamp for Hatfield and The North, National Health and others. Best tracks: "Marchides" which houses an incredible Miller guitar solo, along with some of some of Wyatt's best drumming, and "Gloria Gloom" which includes Brian Eno in a guest role, providing some ethereal synth textures. Can't be beat. -- Mike Ohman
March is Cuneiform records runner up to Smoke Signals, another disc of unreleased live material. While I found the sound quality and the quality of the music to be mostly very good I felt it was marred by Robert Wyatts terrible off key singing on a number of tracks, mainly "Instant Pussy" where he sounds like a choking crow. One other flaw in this record is the boring bass line which runs through both the 1st and 2nd track. The last four tracks are pretty much unmarred and are definitely worth hearing for any Canterbury fan. I would even go so far to say that the instrumental parts on this CD are better than their studio counterparts. -- Anton Winkelhan
[See Caravan | Grimes, Carol and Delivery | National Health | Quiet Sun | Soft Machine | Wyatt, Robert]

Click here to order Smoke Signals or March from Cuneiform Records

Materia Gris [Argentina]
Updated 3/4/05

Oh Perra Vida de Betto (72)
Mellow Prog.

Material [USA]

Temporary Music (80), Memory Serves (82)

Featuring Bill Laswell on bass and Cliff Cultureri on guitar. Laswell is now a leader of the New York "downtown" music scene, working with Fred Frith, Ronald Shannon-Jackson, Ginger Baker(!), to name a few. Temporary Music is actually a compilation of 2 EPs that offer an interesting fusion of jazz/rock and kind of a Euro-disco or techno feel. These guys blew me away at the Gong Festival in Baltimore back in 79, in fact they blew everyone away, just doing the 4 songs from the first EP, plus a killer version of Eno's "Somber Reptiles." Really tight ensemble playing from a traditional rock 4-piece outfit, and very high energy. I was less impressed with the subsequent releases, however.

Matraz [Chile]
Updated 9/24/01

Tiempo (99)
I have to admit it from the first line: I do like this band a lot. Period. They are definitely succesful in their symphonic approach. The only reference I can give is Yes, more than in the "sound and feel", in the way compositions are internally structured and arranged. As Jon Anderson pointed years ago: it's "orchestrated rock", donīt expect a backing orchestra, we're talking about the approach to composition. "Tiempo" is a concept album, based on a poem by Gabriela Mistral (with this, and with Los Jaivas having put out in 1981 Alturas de Macchu Picchu, music for a poem by Pablo Neruda, seems that both Chilean Nobel winners are well represented in prog music). Itīs basically about the hours in a day (four themes: "Amanecer" -dawn-, "Mañana" -morning-, "Atardecer" -evening-, and "Noche" -night-). The good thing is that the outcome is neither pretentious, nor self-indulgent. Itīs rather like a child staring at the vast ocean: amazed, and innocent. The piano plays an important role here, and though the emphasis is not in complexity, I guess this requires constant rehearsing, as the different instruments play different roles and the changes occur often. There is a wide variety in the sounds and moods covered. But, this is the kind of album that is not too self-conscious about its "cleverness" or "complexity". Complex and clever it is, indeed, but it's more about the beauty of music. Moreover: features the best singing Iīve heard in a Chilean prog band since Fulano (who can beat Arlette, anyway!). I just love this one ... -- Rodrigo Farías M.
Click here for Matraz' very simple web site, but there are sound samples

Matrix [USA]
Updated 3/5/05

Matrix (aka Matrix IX) (76)
The Wizard (78)
Tale Of The Whale (79)
Harvest (80)
Proud Flesh (01, Live)
Fusion with heavy emphasis on synths, horns.
Click here for the Matrix web site

Mats and Morgan [Sweden]
Updated 10/31/06

Trends And Other Diseases (96)
Radio Da Da (98)
The Teenage Tapes (98)
The Music Or The Money ... (97, 2CD)
Live (01, Live)
On Air With Guests (02, Live)
Thanks For Flying With Us (05, as Mats/Morgan Band)
Trends And Other Diseases (08, Cuneiform reissue with a 15-min bonus track)
Heart Beats Live/Tourbook (08, as Mats/Morgan Band, One CD and One DVD, Live)
Mats/Morgan Band

Original Entry 10/31/06:
The only thing I've heard from Mats and Morgan is the RealAudio sampler called "Big Mats/Morgan Sampler" on Morgan Ågren's web site and MP3's of "Sinus" and "Remain Seated" from their new album Thanks For Flying With Us, but these are all spectacular ("Sinus" excerpts figure strongly into the sampler too). Mats and Morgan were big Frank Zappa fans and had played in a Zappa cover band named Zappsteetoot before being "discovered" by Zappa himself. He invited them onstage to play with his band when he was in Sweden. They later toured with Zappa's Universe, a band sponsored by Zappa to play his music after he stopped touring before his death.

The "Big Mats/Morgan Sampler" on the web site definitely shows the Zappa influence, but it's the early, chaotic Zappa. To be really "prog reviewer-ish" about it, one might say "Mats and Morgan sound like what Zappa would have sounded like if he recorded for Cuneiform Records". It's not that big of a stretch ... Mats and Morgan's latest album Thanks for Flying with Us is on Cuneiform Records. Definitely a band I'll need to check out in greater detail.

Morgan Ågren has also played with Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah. -- Fred Trafton

Updated 10/6/08:
Cuneiform has reissued Trends and Other Diseases, Mats and Morgan's debut CD originally only released in Sweden. The reissue has been remastered and also contains a 15-minute bonus track. They've also issued a Live CD/DVD set Heart Beats Live / Tourbook. The CD and DVD do not contain the same music.

Listening to Trends and Other Diseases doesn't change my description of Mats and Morgan's music much ... it still sounds like "Zappa would have sounded like if he recorded for Cuneiform Records". Sort of. Actually, though I can hear a lot of Zappa influence, I wouldn't really say this album "sounds like Zappa". I also hear sections that remind me of Todd Rundgren's early more progressive albums (A Wizard, A True Star or Todd) or some sort of warped Bizarro World version of National Health, but more chaotic and heavier than any of the above. I might have once said they were "not really RIO", but now that they've played at the 2007 Rock In Opposition festival, I guess I have to say instead that they are literally "one of the bands that defines RIO". The only fair assessment is that they've really got their own unique sound. Not as "difficult" as some of the stuff on their Cuneiform label, but certainly not the sort of thing you'd ever hear on the radio or in a non-progressive crowd. Quite good, but be prepared to wade through a bunch of anarchy mixed with the virtuosic melodic content.

In addition, Cuneiform has released a new album, Heat Beat Live/Tourbook. The first part is a CD of live material mostly recorded in two concerts in 2005 and 2007. It was mixed by Morgan Ågren, and is a great primer to Mats and Morgan. Just listening to it, I would say it's Mats Öberg on keys, Morgan Ågren on drums, and a really hot but uncredited bass player. But watching the accompanying DVD, it's obvious that Mats is quite capable of playing a hot very bass-sounding line on keys with his left hand while doing a wild, completely independent keyboard part with his right hand simultaneously. The CD liner insert isn't clear, so I can only say that it sounds like keyboards, bass and drums, though it may in fact have no bassist.

Musically, it may not sound exactly like Zappa, but I can easily see why Zappa wanted to work with these guys after hearing them, since their style fits very nicely with the sort of things Zappa liked to do. Very jazzy and full of virtuosity, yet also heavy on improvisation and anarchy. Quite original.

Packaged along with this CD is a retrospective DVD featuring Morgan Ågren playing with others. He's mostly playing with Mats Öberg, but there are also videos of him playing with Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah and with a Captain Beefheart tribute band. Some of these cuts may be from the same concerts as are on the CD ... there is certainly some overlap of the songs, but I can't be sure they're the same performances. At any rate, a nice adjunct to the CD. I would recommend this set to anyone who wants to get to know Mats and Morgan, or to know them better if you already know them. -- Fred Trafton

[See Meshuggah | Zappa, Frank |

Click here for Morgan Ågren's web site
Click here for Morgan Ågren's page on Drummerworld web site, where there are several MP3's to listen to
Click here to order Thanks For Flying With Us from Cuneiform Records
Click here for a 1999 interview with Mats and Morgan

Matter [USA]

Matter (93)

If you like quirky psychedelic guitar-rock drenched with Mellotron, read on... Matter is pretty much the two man project of Joe Albarran (chapman stick, bass, Mellotron and guitar) and Mike Madden (drums and percussion) - although Spyder Powers contributes lead guitar on a few of the tracks. For a sound comparison, some paralells to a Djam Karet or Steve Tibbetts might be in order, with some of that everpresent King Crimson style Mellotron thrown into the mix - yet one cannot say this sounds like any of the former other than as a quick reference - in fact the overall sound is far more jagged and psychedelic - for lack of a better word, bringing to mind some of the early german bands like Ashra Tempel or Guru Guru before they smoothed out their sound. Recording quality tends to be a little substandard for the nineties, which tends to further authenticate the seventies feel. No vocals here, to speak of other than some whispers and background screaming on one track. Some of the tracks, like the shimmering "Beyond The Fourth Dimension" or "Gravity Field" with its spastic guitar leads, tend to stand out among the others, yet even as such most of the album has kind of a sameness about it that maybe more variety of instrumentation could provide. "Bog" is a slower cut with fuzzy lead melodies walking over a bed of Mellotron and percussive bass. This is one of those albums that beckons you back for more listens as it slowly reveals itself and its subtleties, its strengths and weaknesses.

maudlin of the Well [USA]
Updated 2/1/06

My Fruit Psychobells ... A Seed Combustible (99)
Bath (01)
Leaving Your Body Map (01)
maudlin of the Well (2002)

If the phrase "progressive metal" conjures likenesses to Dream Theater or Symphony X in your mind, then you're getting the wrong idea. If it makes you think of Queen or even Queensrÿche, then I'd really better steer clear of the term. maudlin of the Well, however, is certainly Prog and has many toes dipped into the well of Metal. But the metal parts are probably closer to Tool than any of the previously mentioned bands. Heavy thrash drumming, guitars and bass distorted beyond tonality, troll vox and SGM-type bellowing all place maudlin of the Well into the "progressive metal" category.

But wait! They're much more than that. What about those pastoral guitar harmonic plucking parts? The clear, clean female (and male) vocals? There are parts on both Bath and Leaving Your Body Map that can only be described as sweet and melodious. It sounds more like King Crimson's "Moonchild" than anything a metal band would be interested in performing. They'll sometimes put troll vox on top of these "pretty" musical parts just for the contrast. Then there will be parts that can only be described as "sound sculpture" with no real melodic content, just a pleasant arrangement of sounds. maudlin of the Well manages to meld these styles and more and still have it feel cohesive, rather than several band members fighting for control. This takes incredible expertise, and maudlin of the Well has it in abundance (there are 8 musicians listed in this band as full-time members and several more guest musicians). Nope, not really "progressive metal" at all ... this band can be described only as avant metal, as useless as that umbrella is at describing their music. Really ground-breaking and wonderfully executed.

For several years, Bath and Leaving Your Body Map have been out of print, but Dark Symphonies is re-issuing them in January 2006 in limited quantities, with bonus tracks. These two albums were originally released simultaneously in 2001. Though not a 2-CD set, they are considered to be "companion albums" which complement each other. This re-issue has been my first taste of maudlin of the Well (yes, they really do leave the "m" lowercase and the "W" capitalized), and I'm very impressed. To be honest, I'm not usually one who enjoys "prog-metal", but these albums are diverse, intricate, surprising and superbly executed and I find them to be thoroughly enjoyable in that "difficult" progressive way. Let's try this as a quotable quote: "If Henry Cow was a Metal band, they might sound something like maudlin of the Well". Anyone who knows how diverse Henry Cow is knows this is a worthless analogy, but it's about as good as I can do. Not merely recommended, these albums are a must for anyone who has a liking for the "avant" regions of music, even if you would usually steer clear of a "prog-metal" band.

Though maudlin of the Well are no longer together in this form, several members have re-formed as Kayo Dot and continue to tour and perform a very similar musical style with a large performing group and to record with other semi-members who work with them in the studio. If they come to your area, check them out! And in the meantime, order Bath and Leaving Your Body Map from Dark Symphonies (see link below). -- Fred Trafton

[See Kayo Dot]

Click here to order maudlin of the Well releases from Dark Symphonies

Mawwal [USA]
Updated 8/6/08

Mawwal - Live at Artspace (02, Live, as Acoustic Paranoise)
Black Flies (07)
This Is All There Is, There Is No Other Place (08)
Mawwal - Joe O'Brien (bass), Mike Keyes (drums), Jim Matus (guitar, lute, vocals, composer), Jill O'Brien (vocals), and Rohan Gregory (violin). Mawwal is "augmented by" Harshal Tole (tabla), Percy Jones (bass), Ken Matarazzo (percussion) and Michel Moushabek (percussion) in recordings and some live dates.

Original entry added 5/5/07:
Black Flies is the first studio album from Mawwal, who have been around since 2002 in that form. But before that, band leader Jim Matus led another band called Paranoise, and there is a live album entitled Mawwal - Live at Artspace which was released for free download on the Paranoise web site under the name Acoustic Paranoise. This is clearly a transitional album, so I've placed it in both bands' discographies. It's a great album in its own right, and I've already talked about it a bit in the Paranoise entry, so go there for some info on it. Today, I'm really here to talk about Black Flies.

For the first impression of Black Flies, it's hard to get beyond "WOW!". For me, this is what "progressive" music is all about. Yet you'll keep hearing it compared to Peter Gabriel's music, and that's fair after a fashion. In fact, if you're familiar with Paranoise, you might say that this album sounds a lot like Gabriel, but is closer to the "difficulty" level of Paranoise as far as making it airplay-ready. If this is sounding negative to you, please don't take it that way ... I'm only predicting what others might say about the album. For my taste, this is album is just about perfect in every way. The recording quality is excellent, the compositions are intricate and enguaging and the musical performances are nothing short of spectacular. To call this "world music" is both accurate and an insult if the term calls to mind the crap they sell in the health food stores. This has elements of Arabic music (melodically and vocally) plus Indian music (due to the tablas and violin), Greek music (Matus' Laouto and again the violin), plus vocal harmonies that sound like Bulgarian Women's Choirs all mixed with western jazz-rock and progressive rock. It seems that Jim is trying to tell us that these elements can live in harmony with each other and create something new and beautiful, they don't have to fight and be in conflict with each other. And that's what Matus' politics are all about too, which are woven into the lyrics of the music and add yet another dimension to the already fascinating brew.

But lest you think this is all about "World Music", there's some great fusion grooves being layed down underneath the ethnic music by none other than Percy Jones (Brand X, Tunnels, etc.) on many if not most of the tracks. Bumping this album off my "Best of 2007" list this year will be quite a feat, but we'll see if it can be done. I don't know whether to hope so or not. Either way, Black Flies is essential! -- Fred Trafton

Updated 8/6/08:
Only about a year after the release of Black Flies comes a second studio album from Mawwal. The title of this one is This Is All There Is, There Is No Other Place. The band members remain mostly constant since last time, but violinist Rohan Gregory is no longer listed as a "band member", though he still plays on the majority of cuts. Jim Matus said to me in an e-mail that "Rohan no longer plays with us live but is an honorary Mawwal member for life. He has his own group in Boston that does a hybrid type Flamenco thing." Percy Jones again guests on several cuts along with other guest artists doing specialty vocal and instrumental performances.

This Is All There Is, There Is No Other Place is quite different from Black Flies ... whereas Black Flies might be considered to be a rock album with lots of ethnic percussion, vocal and instrumental influences, This Is All There Is, There Is No Other Place is almost totally an acoustic album, and most of what I would call "rock influence" is gone. In many ways, it's closer to the Mawwal - Live at Artspace album than Black Flies. When I mentioned this to Matus in by e-mail, he responded, "It was meant to sound like that, thanks for noticing! This was an attempt to capture a more acoustic/live sound. I just wanted to get that sound documented." He also told me, "It's definitely not rock and maybe it shouldn't be included in an encyclopedia of progressive rock after all." I would agree with him except that I thought last year's Black Flies was one of the most amazing albums I've ever heard, and lots of the sound from that album remains on This Is All There Is ..., just not the "rock" parts. So maybe I'll just describe the album to you and let you decide for yourself if it sounds interesting to you.

If I said "ethnic music" or "world music", that might make many prog rockers turn up their noses at the new album. Yet both descriptions apply to a large extent, if you set aside the prejudice that this means "boring", because this music is not boring. This is an album of modern middle eastern music. I must admit that I don't listen to much middle eastern music aside from what can be heard as background music in a middle eastern restaurant. Compared to that, this is far more complex, with lots of strange sounding instruments, bizarre (to western-trained ears) harmonies, unusual vocal stylings and hypnotic percussion playing in unorthodox rhythmic patterns. These are the features that will appeal to the more open-minded progger. On the other hand, there's little or no "rock" feel to this music, so it's not "progressive rock", though it certainly fits the term "progressive music", both in its musical range and its political undercurrents. The fact that this album is pretty much purely acoustic ... no electric guitars, keyboards or studio gimmickry ... means that they can (and do) play these songs live and "unplugged" (for a nicely-recorded example, click on the WAMC Radio show link below). Comparing Mawwal to other bands is virtually impossible, since I can think of zero other bands that sound anything like them. And that, too, should appeal to the open-minded progger.

As for my personal impressions, I did find This Is All There Is, There Is No Other Place to be a compelling listen. But I must admit that I broke up listening to the album into several shorter listening sessions rather than listening to the whole thing in one sitting. For this western listener, at least, the music is more comprehensible in small doses. The vocal harmonies are particularly interesting, but sound more like what I would expect in a Muslim call to prayer than what I'm used to hearing on a CD. Yes, yes, I know this is what good prog is all about ... expanding one's musical horizons ... but I did find I could appreciate the songs better by breaking them up with other music in between until my ears got used to hearing the foreign and alien-sounding modalities.

My recommendation: give This Is All There Is, There Is No Other Place a try and decide for yourself where it fits within your musical boundaries and expectations. You may find those boundaries stretched into some interesting new dimensions. Mine were. -- Fred Trafton

[See Percy Jones | Paranoise]

Click here for Mawwal's web site
Click here to order Black Flies from CD Baby
Click here to play a live concert featured on WAMC Radio
Click here to download Mawwal - Live at Artspace

Max [Spain]

Babel (78)

Maxophone [Italy]
Updated 12/14/05

Maxophone (75)
From Cocoon to Butterfly (05, CD rec. 1973-75 plus DVD rec. 1976, NTSC & PAL versions)
One of the best of the 70's italian progressive re-releases, a high-energy six-piece, cohesive and forceful music with strong melodies and tight changes. Their album was released in both Italian and English versions.
Splendid Italian ensemble strongly influenced by P.F.M. and King Crimson. Their one album combines jazz, rock and classical ideas in a dazzling stylistic whirlpool where you never know what's coming next. So at one moment they're playing a gentle, romantic melody, the next they move into Dixieland jazz, then suddenly furious rock guitar comes out of nowhere. And so on. They use jazz (clarinets, saxes, trumpets) and classical (horns, flutes, strings, harp) instruments to give them a textural depth most such bands could only hope to achieve. Perhaps the best sample of their arresting style is the instrumental "Fase", which grips you immediately with the punchy Frippian guitar, then goes into some lighter classical-like moments, and not the other way around as many of the other tracks do. Nonetheless, a beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable album. -- Mike Ohman
Maxophone are another of the crop of Italian progressive rock acts, who recorded one quality release (in early 1975), and then disappeared. Their music was very much in the pastoral PFM vein, with similarities to bands such as Locanda Delle Fate, and, perhaps, Le Orme. The vocals are in Italian, and, interestingly enough, a version with English vocals was released in the US! In addition to the keyboards/guitar/drums line-up, Maxophone featured two players on wind instruments, including clarinet, flute and horns. This added a more symphonic dimension to their music, which should surely appeal to those who enjoy the bands noted in the comparisons above.
Ah yes, yet another great Italian band. The closest comparison that I can make is with Locanda Delle Fate, but that doesn't quite describe Maxophone. While Locanda was a full, rich seven piece that composed some of the most beautiful multi-instrumental counterpoint I've ever heard, Maxophone uses a full, rich complex approach with a heavy guitar and some occasional harshness. Not only do they layer complex harmonies with ease, the point that pleased me the most when listening to this CD was the sudden, surprising changes of tempo and style. They switch from virtuouso classical piano melodies to mid twentieth century jazz between measures. Not only that, but with metalish guitar leads in some tracks, they move to gospel style vocal overdubs in others. This is a feast for those of you who like the 70's Italian bands or contradicting mood changes. Unfortunately, the CD was mastered off a record and loses its excellent sound quality occasionally on the high-end parts. But don't let that stop you from enjoying this masterpiece. Even at the import price, it is well worth the money. Highly recommended.
Maxophone were a top-notch Italian band playing a complex symphonic prog. The ample liner notes on the CD reissue I have are written in Korean so I can't garner much information about the band other than to guess that they were a six piece. Their style has references to PFM, Le Orme, Locanda Delle Fate and Il Balletto di Bronzo. Their playing ranges from pastoral softness to searing and heavy but always lyrical and never overbearing. There are nice multi-part vocals that are never harsh. In addition to keyboards and guitar (including classical guitar passages) the band uses sax, flute, vibes and a variety of other instruments to round out their sound. Quite good!
The classic Maxophone shows Italian symphonic rock at its best, full of nuances and subtleties. The band of six offers rich instrumentation: keyboards, guitars, vocals (in Italian) bass, drums, flutes, percussions, clarinet, saxophone, trombone and horn. Guests also add harp, violin, cello and bass. The compositions show a most complete sound and take advantage of the versatility of the musicians by finding inspiration certainly in rock, but also in jazz and classical music. This energetic music is full of emotions and switches easily from one style to another within the context of the same track. An unavoidable production for fans of the style and era. -- Paul Charbonneau
The first 90 seconds or so of the opening track on their eponymous 1975 recording (their first and last recording actually) ("C'e un paese al mondo") opens with (1) some very Henry Cow-ish, slightly atonal acoustic piano, which then swiftly segues into; (2) a 45 second heavy jazz-rock guitar/bass/drum/piano jam, which then gently fades into; (3) a quiet, almost pastoral French horn/organ/bass section. All of this might conjure up images of Gentle Giant, which is at least in part true. However, whereas the music of Gentle Giant borrows heavily from medieval styles, is "dense" and "complicated" in the most contrived way, and irritatingly atonal and jagged, the music of Maxophone seamlessly stitches together disparate styles into a soft, very pleasant sounding, and wonderfully arranged bit of symphonic progressive rock. The musicians are superb, actually having received formal training, and compose astoundingly complex pieces that are beautiful and challenging, yet never lapse into pure academics. The bonus track "Il Fischio del Vapore" is excellent while "Cono di gelato" is just mediocre. Highly recommended! -- Jeff Park
Although less popular than other mainstream italian prog rock groups, Maxophone recently achieved cult status among late prog rock fan because of their well crafted music, solid musical expertise, and precisely cut arrangements. Their only LP record, the omonimous Maxophone, aged pretty well sounding fresh today almost as it was in 1975. A well coordinated six piece ensemble, Maxophone sits covering the gap between the clattering edge of groups like King Crimson, the folky roots of Jethro Tull and the more elaborated Canterbury sound. Although they may sometime blink an eye to melodic rock, they never forget the mission to surprise the listener, nicely standing repeated listenings. Their music shows surfacing influences from Greg Lake, Robert Fripp, ELP, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, National Health, PFM, Banco and Yes among the others. Maxophone most reknowned capability is to change their music style from pastoral to rock to classical to jazz within the same song without losing listening momentum. Thanks to the use of wind instruments, chord instruments and keyboards, their music always sounds very rich, round and full of amazing nuances. After the publication of the omonimous LP, they recorded a poppier single, whose side A and B songs are both included as bonus tracks in the CD version of Maxophone. A must for all italian prog rock lovers which may also get it in a US version. -- Ludovico Vecchione
In 2005, BTF Music in Italy released a box set which includes a Maxophone CD with 10 vintage tracks recovered from outtakes and alternate demo material from 1973-1975 (4 tracks are unreleased), plus a DVD with Maxophone live footage from a 1976 concert at RAI Studios in Torino (RAI is the Italian national TV broadcasting company). All recordings have been remastered. The songs on the CD were recorded on 4-track recording equipment. The DVD footage was professionally filmed by Italian TV in 1976, and has a bonus video track of Maxophone re-formed in 2005, playing one live track at Radio Popolare Studios in Milano. -- Fred Trafton (paraphrasing a BTF Music press release)
Click here to order either the original Italian or the English versions of Maxophone from Mellow Records
Click here to order From Cocoon to Butterfly from BTF Music

May Blitz [UK]

May Blitz (70), The Second of May (71)

One of the earliest British progressive trios, similar to High Tide, but not as good on their first one. Second Of May is supposed to be great though.

Early UK rockers with progressive touches. Self-titled first opens with great guitar jamming song, including some hot acoustic guitar jams intertwined with electric guitar. Guitar-dominated work pervades the album but the music is rather uneven throughout. Some songs are pretty good, others go lacking a little. Vocals on most songs are somewhat reminescent of Jack Bruce. Overall, nothing really spectacular.

Mays, Lyle [USA]

Lyle Mays (86)

Keyboardist with Pat Metheny group. His self-titled solo album is much like Metheny circa Off Ramp, but a little more low key, and of course all the music is piano-centered. Features Bill Frisell on guitar and Nana Vasconcelos on percussion.

[See Metheny, Pat]

McChurch Soundroom [Switzerland]
Updated 3/28/06

Delusion (71)
McChurch Soundroom (72)
From the underground scene.
You mistakenly list McChurch Soundroom as a German band. Most prog sites etc. do, because their albums were released on Pilz/BASF (German label, of course). However, McChurch Soundroom were not a German band, but Swiss, from Basel. I know, because I am from Basel. Actually, McChurch were rather crap, but no matter - you're an encyclopedia, after all! -- Gabriel Stetter

McCully Workshop [South Africa]

Ages (75)

Rare South African prog album with psych-looking cover.

McDonald and Giles [UK]

McDonald and Giles (71)

This titleless album by two under-appreciated contributors to the landmark In the Court of the Crimson King is in many ways the polar opposite of the Crimson King. Multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald (reeds, keyboards, guitar) and drummer Michael Giles left King Crimson in late-1969 because, according to an interview with McDonald, Crimson's music "is not happy music...And I want to make music that says good things instead of evil things". Crimson's venerable Robert Fripp, stunned by McDonald and Giles departure and offering to leave the band instead, attributed the band's break-up to McDonald and Giles "falling in love" during Crimson's Fall '69 US tour. Thus, this 1971 Atlantic record is an upbeat, happy, love-inspired counterpoint to the brilliant, yet haunting and moody, Court of the Crimson King. Ian McDonald's "Suite in C" (complete with pretentious Crimsonesque subtitles), with catchy jazz-like riffs, is part statement that McDonald can also handle a guitar (something he couldn't play while along side guitar virtuoso Fripp). "Is She Waiting" is an unabashedly sappy love song penned while McDonald toured with Crimson. "Flight of the Ibis" is the original version of Crimson's "Cadence and Cascade," with a more poppishly accessible melody, but dogged by weak lyrics. The album's highlights are Mike Gile's "Tomorrow's People," punctuated by snappy rim shots and nice orchestral interludes, and McDonald's "Birdman", a wonderfully crafted ode to man's eternal quest to fly. "Birdman" is the album's most Crimsoneque, prog-like piece, complete with music-laden imagery, crescendos, and tranquil interludes, and penned by Crimson's own Pete Sinfield. Crimson fans are likely to be perplexed yet intrigued by McDonald and Giles' sole joint-collaboration. Throughout the piece, McDonald even forsakes the Mellotron (something which he almost single handedly popularized with King Crimson) in favor of an acoustic piano. Because the album never met commercial success, McDonald and Giles went their separate ways, with McDonald joining the very commercially successful yet most un-prog band, Foreigner (just after he was suppose to rejoin the disbanded post-Red King Crimson) and Giles holding steady gigs as a session musician (Ant Phillips, musical scores). This highly listenable album deserves a place in the collection of any die-hard Crimson fan if for no other reason than to suggest the direction Crimson might have gone had McDonald and Giles stayed with the group. -- Robert Cervero

Two renegades from the original King Crimson. The music on this album is in a much lighter vein than KC, with major keys abounding, making them much closer to Caravan. What guitar there is is acoustic, the emphasis is more on McDonald's keyboards and reeds (sax/clarinet/flute), plus the odd sundry instrument, like the lovely use of zither on "Flight of the Ibis", which contains the original, superior melody to "Cadence And Cascade". "Birdman" is the labum's sidelong opus, and perhaps their most influential piece of music. With its ear-catching melodies and tasteful orchestrations, it influenced bands such as Grobschnitt. Very good. -- Mike Ohman

[See Giles, Giles and Fripp | King Crimson]

MCH Band [Czech Republic]
Updated 5/17/02

Es Reut Mich F ... (90)
MCH Band 1982-1986 (92, 2CD)
Gib Acht !!! (93)
Pseudemokritos (96, as Mikolás Chadima)
Transparent People (98, as Chadima & Fajt)
Carnival (99)
MCH Band in 1993 (Gib Acht! line-up)

MCH stands for Miklas Chadima, guitar and sax player and founder of this band from Prague. Chadima was one of the most important figures of the Czechoslovakian rock scene. Since 1972 he played in several bands and as he signed the Charta 77 his activities resulted in continuous persecutions, interrogations and investigations by the Czechoslovakian secret police. On the rare occasions he was allowed to travel abroad he went to London, playing with Art Bears and This Heat. MCH Band was founded in 1982. They published several cassettes and few of their songs were published on compilations (e.g. on the RecRec Quarterly Vol.1 No.1 in 1985). After the fall of the iron curtain they recorded this double LP (one CD, distributed by Recommended No Man's Land) [Es Reut Mich F ...] in 1990. As the liner notes put it: "The Music of MCH Band can be called Prague music. We can find here the coolness of gothic cathedrals, richness of baroque palaces and the tragicomic atmosphere that is typical for Czech-German-Jewish inhabitants of Prague, stigmatised by nazi and communist terror." The band consists of four musicians (guitar/sax, keyboards, bass and drums) and they sing in Czech and German. The music is neo-classical prog., very dark and sinister, very quiet and very dramatic on the other hand. The relation to other Czech bands of the early 9ties is quite obvious (Domaci Kapela, Ser Un Pejalero). People who like Univers Zero (Heresie) should try to find this one! -- Achim Breiling

[See Art Bears | This Heat]

Click here for the MCH Band web site

McKendree Spring [USA]

McKendree Spring (69), Second Thoughts (70), 3 (72), Tracks (73), Spring Suite (74), Get Me To The Country (75), Too Young To Feel This Old (76)

A band to beware of. The way they give their electric violin/synth player (Michael Dreyfuss) top billing is very misleading. Usually he's relegated to playing countryish amplified fiddle behind the wimpy folk/country Grateful Dead-isms of singer/songwriter Fran McKendree. He gets about one song per album to stretch his legs, and it's often a letdown. On the one I have: it's "Light up The Skies", a noble but unsuccessful attempt to adapt themes from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" into a five-minute song. Anyone who knows me knows that I'll recommend you get Canarios' Ciclos, and pass this one up. Double beware: Spring Suite has very cool Roger Dean cover art, but I heard it sucked just as bad as Tracks. -- Mike Ohman

McKennitt, Loreena [Canada]
Updated 12/28/07

Elemental (85)
To Drive the Cold Winter Away (87)
Parallel Dreams (89)
The Visit (91)
The Mask and Mirror (94)
A Winter Garden: Five Songs For The Season (95, EP)
Live In San Francisco (95, EP, Live)
The Book Of Secrets (97)
Live In Paris And Toronto (99, 2CD Live)
An Ancient Muse (06)
Nights from the Alhambra (07, 2CD+1DVD Live)
Loreena McKennitt

Loreena McKennitt is one of the most exciting musicians to come out of Canada in the past decade. Her music shows a heavy British Isles/Irish folk influence, often combined with a medieval sound and occasionally ventures into Spanish and Middle-eastern music. A lot of people compare her to Enya, but a much more apt comparison would be with Dead Can Dance -- or maybe with early Alan Stivell. Her music, though mellow, does not confine itself to the synth-ethereal sound that Enya's does, and incorporates a wider variety of rock and world instruments as well. Loreena's voice, furthermore, is much richer and more operatic than Enya's. Her arrangments are also more elaborate. Her first three albums, though quite good, might not be the best introduction to her music for a prog fan. They tend to be very relaxed, very melodic versions of traditional Irish, Scottish, and North American folk tunes, with lilting vocals, seasoned by very beautiful arrangements on harp, guitar, keyboards, bass, violin, and occasional pipes and percussion. There are a couple of compositions that feature spoken-word poetry over the music as well. Loreena really comes into full blossom on The Visit. It's a more eclectic album, containing tunes inspired by Persian and Argentinian musical traditions, and it's slightly more up-tempo and rockish as well. The centerpiece of this album is the 12-minute "The Lady of Shallott" which uses the words of Tennyson's poem for lyrics. (Loreena actually does this a lot -- she has set several Shakespearean speeches to music as well.) The Mask and Mirror continues these musical explorations even further with an attempt to capture the mood of medieval Spain and Morocco on several of the songs (like "The Mystic's Dream" and "Marrakesh Night Market"). With it's lush melodies, trance-like rhythms, rich vocal harmonies, and wonderful instrumental arrangements (featuring some great guitar playing by Brian Hughes), it's probably the best album of hers for a prog-fan to pick up. -- James Chokey

Added 4/23/01:
When I first took over as editor of the GEPR, I was surprised to find Loreena McKennitt's name in the encyclopedia. I'm a big fan of Ms. McKennitt's music, but I never really considered it to be progressive. This is what I would call "world music", in a big way, since she uses rhythms and musical modalities from all over the world, usually with her ethereal vocals over the top. Seldom rock, frequently Celtic, and usually intriguing. Also great music for home birthing (trust me on this one). Her latest live album Live In Paris And Toronto is an excellently performed and recorded overview of all her music, I would recommend this as a good starting point to get to know her style. -- Fred Trafton

Update 12/28/07:
After nearly ten years, Loreena McKennitt has finally released a new studio album, An Ancient Muse in 2006. Several reviews I've read have said, "why bother? It sounds just like her previous albums." Well, there's a bit of truth in that, but heck, I like her previous albums, and you don't listen to a Loreena McKennitt album for the sake of bleeding-edge musical innovation. But even there, this isn't bad. Loreena has been around the world researching Celtic musical stylings and history, and has incorporated instrumentation and harmonic movement from ancient sources. That's why the album is named that, after all. Again, she uses literary sources for "The English Ladye and the Knight" with lyrics by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), though she pens most of the lyrics herself. If you didn't like her previous albums, there's probably not much in An Ancient Muse that will change your mind. But if you did, An Ancient Muse will be a fine addition to your collection.

Loreena followed the studio album up with a 2CD/1DVD live 3-disc digipak called Nights from the Alhambra in 2007. The two CD's contain the all music from the DVD, though of course without the video. I've only watched (and listened to) the DVD, which contains her most popular selections from earlier albums plus a couple from An Ancient Muse. Excellent videography, excellent musicians, interestingly strange instrumentation and Loreena's mysterious voice make this a most entertaining and repeat-worthy DVD. Imagine a combination of the best material from Enya and Riverdance (without the dancing) and you'll get some idea of what this album sounds like. Welcome back, Loreena. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Loreena McKennitt's web site

Medina Azahara [Spain]
Updated 3/5/05

Paseando por la Mezquita (79)
La Esquina del Viento (80)>BR> Andalucía (82)
Caravano Española (86)
En Al-Hakim (89)
En Directo (90, Live)
Sin Tiempo (92)
Dónde está la Luz (93)
Árabe (95)
A Toda Esa Gente (96, Live)
Tánger (98)
Baladas (99)
XX (00)
Tierra de Sueños (02)
Versión Original (03)
Aixa (03)
Medina Azahara are a Spanish prog band who reportedly released several albums, starting from around 1979 and as late as 1991. I've seen this band listed as an incredible example of Spanish prog but the three albums I have tend not to bear this out. La Esquina del Viento is mostly 3-4 minute songs (the longest is 5:18) that isn't too progressive but rock with a few symphonic progressive tendencies. There is a strong vocal (Spanish of course) presence, lots of heavy guitar and occasionally some nice keyboard work. The rhythm section of bass and drums generally play simple and straightforward. All the songs follow the same general verse/chorus format. Andalucia is similar in that it has several commercial songs and a one or two tunes with vauge progressive tendencies. Paseando por la Mezquita is a better album with several fluid guitar solos alternating with liquid synth passages. They still suffer from a basic rhythm section, though. If you find any of their LPs at a bargain (doubtful), it might be worth picking them up. If they want a fortune (that you're willing to spend as a collector) you may want to audition them before you lay out the cash.
I heard a couple of early tracks, enjoyable flamenco-prog with distorted guitar. Similar to Cai, but harder-rocking. -- Mike Ohman

Meisenfloo [Germany]

Meisenfloo (72)


MegaXBrand [USA]
Updated 12/3/02

Halogen (02)
MegaXBrand's Lester James (or maybe this is James Parsons, or maybe they're one and the same. Who knows?)

MegaXBrand's Halogen is an album of some of the most distorted, paranoid sounding work I've ever heard. Take equal parts The Residents, the earliest Devo, Pere Ubu, This Heat and ... uhm ... maybe the Dickies, pulverize in a blender with chipped, dull blades, pump the resulting goo through several distortion boxes, turn on the arcing/sparking machines and raise to the ceiling to be struck by lightning (laugh maniacally). The resulting smouldering mass of charred matter isn't anything like MegaXBrand, but it has a similar consistency. Know what I mean? No? Well *&%$# you then! Uhm ... sorry ... I think I've been listening to Halogen a bit too much ...

MegaXBrand appears to consist of writer James Parsons and guitarist Lester James, though the album credits are anything but clear on this. Bass, organ, vocals and (possibly) synthesizers can also be heard on the album, but these are uncredited. Halogen's intrumentation sounds as if everything's been run through distortion boxes, including the guitar, the vocals, and the combo organ, and then recorded on an analog tape machine with the VU meters pegged. There's also lots of echo and reverb, to the point where the sarcastic, muttered and shouted vocals are barely understandable, though the broodiness and anger seem to come through even though you can't understand the lyrics. It sounds sort of punkish in that way.

Their web site calls Halogen "underground hip punk surreal rock" ... I'll buy that, but add "indie" to the list of adjectives. Fans of the afore-mentioned bands (The Residents, Devo, Pere Ubu and This Heat) should find a lot to like about this album. Those Seattle guys who call themselves "grunge" ... they don't have a clue what "grunge" is. This is the real thing. Not what I would usually categorize as "Progressive", but unique and inventive nonetheless. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for MegaXBrand's web site. This should give you a good idea of what to expect from Halogen.

Mellow Candle [UK]

Swaddling Songs (72)

Very nice female vocalist, she'll remind you of Annie Haslam of Renaissance or Sonja Kristina of Curved Air. The album falls squarely into a vague folk-prog category, with the vocals sounding very folksy, while the music varies over folk, psych, and progressive. Some nice piano is featured on many of the songs. Very nice if you like female vocals... lots of vocals. For me, sameness starts to creep in about half-way through.

I like folk-rock quite a bit but I've never heard any quite this busy! Something of a mix between Steeleye Span and Reniassance, this early 70's British band has really caught my attention. At first I didn't ever realize the traditional strains...I was so caught up in the keyboard/guitar work playing very *active* melodies across the vocals. And I must say that the vocalist (don't know her name) has one of the most lovely voices I've heard in quite some time. Her control is evident when she modulates pitch half an octave or more between words so smoothly. If there isn't a progressive-folk subdivision, maybe there should be. This is a truly virtuistic performance.

Memoriance [France]

Et Apres (76), L'Ecume des Jours (79)

Obscure French band in the symphonic realms. Pretty good and pretty unique.

Men of Lake [Italy]
Updated 4/1/07

Men Of Lake (a.k.a. Riva) (91)
Looking for the Sun (93)
Out of the Water (94)
Music from the Land of Mountains, Lake & Wine (98)
Current italian band that plays more in the spirit of the 70's than most of their contemporaries. Good vocals (in english), strong melodies, dramatic themes, and lots of Hammond organ everywhere. Very good overall.
After Alan Freeman's rave review in Audion, I was very enthusiastic about hearing this band. Their use of Hammond organs was catching the nostalgic ears of long time progressive fans. The album certainly is listenable and appealing, but destined to be a classic? I don't agree. The keyboardist is no Keith Emerson, in fact he reminds me more of Marillion's Mark Kelly. While the band isn't untalented they spend too much time hitting chords in the background instead of playing together. There are some very nice moments on this album but too many average moments to make a difference. I will give this more listens since people I respect think its quite good but I can't conscienciously give it a thumbs up.

Menayeri [Puerto Rico]
Updated 10/31/02

Menagerie (97, Cassette)
Tiempo Fugitivo (00, CDR)
Menayeri is a Puerto Rican band whose CDR release Tiempo Fugitivo may not be the most highly polished thing you've ever seen, with its "girl who sat beside me in English class sketching on notebook paper" quality pencil-drawn cover art and "two mics in the practice room" quality recording. But if it's the music you care about, then you should give these guys a listen. Nice arrangements of great compositions and performances ranging from good to excellent. The guitarist, Edgardo Alvarez, is in the forefront with a style that seems to mix Steve Howe, Alex Lifeson and Allan Holdsworth together at various points. There are some keyboards on the album, but as there is no full-time keyboardist credited, this probably explains why they are merely adequate ... I assume they are handled part-time by other band members. Edwin Torres handles the vocals well, with lyrics in Spanish (they experimented with English vocals for awhile, but decided against it).

If you can get over the "garage band" sound quality, this album is easily recommendable to fans of Yes or the early Beatles; even though it doesn't sound that much like either of them, it does have that upbeat quality. These guys would be incredible if they could find a good producer to capture their sound onto a better recording. Still, even as it is, it's well worth a listen. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Menayeri's web site

Mentaur [UK]
Updated 3/5/05

Try Your Brakes (90)
No Mortal Man (90)
Verdict (91)
Time Being (92)
Silencing the Alarm Bells ... Live (93, Live)
Darkness Before the Dawn (96, Compilation)
Very good hard rock/metal progressive band, more dark sounding than Dream Theater, they use more bizarre chord progressions. Great keyboard player.

Mephistopheles [Australia]

Mephistopheles (74)

Orchestrated prog with opera overtones.

Mergenthaler, Andrè [Belgium]
Updated 2/14/01

Musik Fuer Einen Engel (93)
Mergenthaler played sax and cello on Univers Zero's Uzed. Then he joined Art Zoyd for Berlin and Nospheratu. From 86 to 93 he worked on solo tracks in the studio, which were published in 93 on the above CD. Mergenthaler plays all the instruments himself, so you here on this disc mostly his nice cello and sax backed by a huge wall of synths and keyboards, and some computer drumming. In addition there is a very strange singing - Mergenthaler electronically modifying his voice to a very deep timbre, reminding a bit of Gregorian chants. This is a very dark and sinister recording, reminding clearly of Art Zoyd (I had to think of Thierry Zaboitzeff's solo recording Dr. Zab, on which Mergenthaler is also playing), but it's a bit simpler and as you may expect, after reading the track names ("Choral", "Ave-Maria", "Gloria" or "Domine") somehow sacred. This is certainly nice, but maybe a bit too melancholic. -- Achim Breiling
[See Art Zoyd | Univers Zero | Zaboitzeff, Thierry]

Merlin [UK]

Vanish to the Moon (89)

Pretty bad neo-prog with male and female vocals. The flute parts are really amateurish. Possibly OK if you like very light neo-prog but avoid otherwise.

Merlin [Argentina]
Updated 6/1/08

Merlin (80)
Alejandro Demichele (vocals, guitars) from Pastoral and Gustavo Montesano (vocals, guitars) from Crucis came together at the end of the 70's and put this short-lived project together and released their sole album in 1980. They are supported by a very tight rythm section as well as dedicated keyboardist.

The music could be described as Latin pop/prog/symph with touches of jazz spreaded here and there. Most songs are in the 4-5 minutes range although two longer cuts, clocking in at over 6 minutes, demonstrates the band's prog potential. The fact that the bulk of the songs are short shouldn't stop anyone from considering the band as prog/symph, because even on the shorter tracks the band still shows where they come from, the Crucis equation coming to fore on many occasions.

Not the best Argentina has to offer, yet still not bad for an early 80's release. Those into Sui Generis, Pastoral and the lighter side of Crucis should consider this album. -- Alain Mallette

[See Crucis | Montesano, Gustavo]

Click here for some information on the Argentinian Progressive Rock pages

Mersmak [Sweden]

Liten Groda I Stor Damm (78)

Folky Prog.

Merzbow [Japan]
Updated 1/20/11

Batztoutai with Memorial Gadgets (86)
Rainbow Electronics (90)
Great American Nude / Crash for Hi-Fi (91)
Music for Bondage Performance (91)
Bastard Noise (94)
Venerology (94)
Mort aux Vaches - Locomotive Breath (95)
Pulse Demon (95)
Green Wheels (95)
Music for Bondage Performance 2 (96)
Oersted (96)
Hybrid Noisebloom (97)
Space Metalizer (97)
Dharma (01)
... many other releases ... see the Merzbow web site
Merzbow's Masami Akita

The following review came with the original pre-2000 GEPR:
This is in the prog survey? I would hardly consider this akin to any prog! Basically harsh Japanese free-form noise, from white electronic noise to instrument torture, but in short, NOISE. Merzbow's sound is based on doing things to metal (scraping, banging, etc) then processing the sound using a myriad of electronic effects to create very noisy ambience. Be warned, there are basically no musical structures except for some early stuff that is rhythmic in nature. Merzbow makes stuff like John Zorn and Doctor Nerve sound symphonic and pretty in comparison! Merzbow will probably make your ears bleed. Way more harsh than other noise stuff like Lustmord, early Current 93, Nurse With Wound, Hafler Trio or even NON.

Merzbow is usually one guy, Masami Akita, and not even Masami would be able to compile his own discography. He has a slew of recordings both authorized and un-, compilations, collaborations, tape releases, strange vinyl artifacts, etc. on many labels from many countries.

Update 3/5/05:
Added a partial album listing to the best of my ability at the time. -- Fred Trafton
Update 1/20/11:
Merzbow has recently been collaborating with Richard Pinhas for the latter's last few albums. I've heard a couple of these, and they're quite good. Despite the negative tone of the old review above, I must agree on one point; Merzbow's catalog is massive, convolved and thoroughly confusing. There is, however, an attempt to document it on the Merzbow web site. -- Fred Trafton
[See Pinhas, Richard]

Click here for Merzbow's web site

Meshuggah [Sweden]
Updated 3/23/06

Psykisk Testbild (89, EP)
Contradictions Collapse (91, Original release)
None (94, EP)
Selfcaged (95, European and US versions, US version has 1 extra song)
Destroy Erase Improve (95)
True Human Design (97)
Chaosphere (98)
Contradictions Collapse (99, U.S. release, different cover art, includes None EP)
Rare Trax (01, Demos & previously unreleased material, including 3 MPEG videos. Early pressings had printing errors and missing MPEG files)
Nothing (02)
I (04, EP)
Catch Thirty-Three (05)

Meshuggah ... whose name is taken from the Hebrew and Yiddish word for "crazy," is a five-piece "prog-metal" group from Umeå, Sweden who use extended polymetric passages, complex drum patterns, jazz chromatics, odd time signatures, angular/dissonant guitar riffs, and harsh, non-pitched vocals.

Meshuggah was formed in Umeå in 1987; two years later, the band released their first record, an EP entitled Psykisk Testbild (which can be roughly translated as "psychological test picture", perhaps in reference to a Rorschach Test image). These recordings displayed straightforward thrash metal-influenced sound along the lines of Metallica's concurrent releases. What made the band unique, however, were hints at the more complex music that the band would later develop into their signature sound. As the group grew older, they further refined the technicality of their musicianship and songwriting. Their music began to take a noticeable influence from not only progressive elements, but by both death metal and thrash metal as well, although not completely similar to nor able to be categorized as either.

Among the band's most recognizable qualities are lead guitar player Fredrik Thordendal's smooth, legato-fusion, Allan Holdsworth-esque solos, singer Jens Kidman's brutal vocals, the churning & dissonant rhythm guitar patterns of both Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom, and the polymetric drum beats of Tomas Haake. In a typical Meshuggah song, Haake plays two separate rhythms: a standard 4/4 beat with his hands, and a completely different metrical subdivision with his feet. The guitars mostly follow the bass drum work, creating an awkwardly pulsating rhythmic pattern to work as the basis of the song.

Meshuggah's debut album, Contradictions Collapse, was originally released in 1991, albeit not in the U.S.; Nuclear Blast's 1999 stateside reissue appends the None EP. While the debut LP represents a strong influence in style from California Bay Area thrash metal, it contained scattered elements of fusion throughout the music, mostly found in Thordendal's solos. It's the EP None that truly shows Meshuggah developing what would ultimately become their unmistakable sonic imprint. The riffs are tighter, solos cleaner, the drumming more technical, and the song structures more complex and less predictable. The polyrhythms, which serve as a defining aspect in their music, become present here. Songs most notably displaying this style are "Ritual" and "Gods of Rapture". Still, my guess is prog-purists would shy away from this LP/EP for the aforementioned dominance of straightforward thrash influence.

With 1995's Destroy Erase Improve, Meshuggah broke any preconceived ideas about what metal could be. The Swedish outfit surpassed their original, yet relatively under developed, debut with a record pure in concept and execution. Both lyrically and musically, the themes visualize the amalgamation of machines with organisms as humanity's next evolutionary step, the cold technology represented by the pulsating rhythms and abrasive sound. While the music is powerful, technical, polyrhythmic metal, Meshuggah handles this with a balance, entwining harsh vocals amongst deceptively simple staccato guitar riffs and precise drumming, often with all three components acting in different time signatures. Meanwhile, the neo-jazz fusion leads serve as melodic breaks amidst the grinding rhythms. As a result, songs like "Future Breed Machine," and "Soul Burn" integrate different elements into a precise attack, the point being that change can be extraordinarily difficult, if not maddening, but the results are transcendent.

1998's Chaosphere saw the band move into heavier territory. To quote one fan, "Meshuggah is an inhuman assault, opaque and austere without remorse. They evoke a band of Terminators -- music so harsh, mechanical and precise it could only be executed by cyborgs. Unusual articulations, strange numbered repetitions, labyrinthine polymeters and polyrhythms ... but this is more than just left-brained number crunching. Meshuggah's ability to fuse their tempestuous concepts into intelligent songs is remarkable". "New Millennium Cyanide Christ" epitomizes this. Haake beats a rather slow 4/4 rhythm with his hands, while the bass drums and guitars play a repetitive 23/16-rhythm pattern on top of it. As the subdivided pattern is repeated, the pattern's accents shift to different beats on each repetition. After repeating the 23/16 pattern five times, a shorter 13/16 pattern is played once. These patterns sum up to 128 16th notes, which equal exactly 8 measures in 4/4 meter. The timbre is mechanical, technical, and chaotic. A lyrical interpretation sees a futuristic setting where the spoken lyrics are a speech, given to the human masses by an altered, post-human cyborg. The speaker discusses all of the technological "improvements" made on his body and indirectly alludes to existence of control over humans - an oppressor (most likely machines ... similar theme to "Future Breed Machine"). He's been built with the intention of censoring and ceasing humans from defying against one another and/or their oppressor. The music is a very "big" mechanical feeling; a very large machine: This relates to both the speaker and the oppressor. Thordendal's lead sounds something like what you'd expect to hear from the internal workings of this machine: sharp notes & quick blurs of electricity while the rhythm guitar, bass, and drums pound out the sound of mechanical movement (bringing to mind elements of King Crimson's "Larks Tongue In Aspic Pt 2" where violin sifts violently over Fripp's cyclic-churn of guitar). The ending, which begins with a snap of Haake's drums, is the most powerful part of the song. It's like the speaker is on a podium with his fist in the air as he preaches. His last words are followed by something I can't describe other than it makes the hair on my neck stand up.

Although 2002's Nothing splayed fans between awed and slightly disappointed, it is certainly progressive in its approach. Where past albums have seen the group driving through the good-natured wittiness of their baffling instrumental changeups, Nothing is a grueling agitation of sound; an ever-changing landscape of riffs loaded with the low-register of custom-made Nevborn eight-string prototype guitars and plenty of surprises. While the music is apparently slower, the rhythms have no fewer complexities than previous efforts, but seemingly more. In many cases, Meshuggah makes groups of sixteenth notes sound like quarter-note triplets, while "apparent" changes in meter are actually the same time signature. Sometimes a "new" riff appears when actually it is the same group of sixteenth notes. "Strengah" is an addictive number with those one or two atonal notes blasting out a super-addictive monster crunch while Haake is using a 32-eighth beat pattern on the hi-hat. Other marvelous sensations exist throughout the album, including "Closed Eye Visual" display of riff permutations of the phrase in relation to the 16-beat cycle, "Straws Pulled at Random" ending in melancholic and utterly poignant jazz-like guitar melody, and the sluggish twist of "Nebulous" that makes the track it all the more gargantuan.

2004's I EP and 2005's Catch Thirty-Three are somewhat of different animals in terms of structure. I is in fact a single 21-minute assault made up of no fewer than 15 separate passages. Opening with a highly intricate pattern of a single chord, staccato riff and a thunderous tom-tom performance by Haake, the bottom suddenly falls out, the band pausing for a split second, afterwards unleashing 22 seconds of pure, unadulterated chaos. From there, the band moves into their "normal" territory, expanding upon elements explored on each of their previous albums while diving into the more extreme. Prog purists would probably not take an interest in this; that's not to say this isn't progressive, in fact the originality and "progressiveness" on display is something to learn from. The reason why a large portion of prog fans probably won't be able to value this is that it bears no immediate resemblances to anything else in prog. While obviously not abandoning live drums, a unique decision was made to use programmed drum patterns using Tomas Haake's "Drumkit From Hell" sample library on Catch Thirty-Three to provide not just a more precise and mechanized drumscape, but also made drum beat creativity a more collaborative effort amongst all of the band members. The album is conceptual, but in a very different way than the usual narrative or thematic focus of most concept albums. This is not as much a story as it is a refined expression of a complex and primal states of being, though the specific definition of the details of this state are best left to the individual listener. Its structure is that of yet another single opus, this time split apart by track and passages. Everything up to and after the catching of the breath that is "In Death - Is Death" is hardcore pulverization of the highest caliber, toying deliberately with rhythmic and tonal variations that have nothing in common with the Dream Theater school of self-conscious musicianship. -- Robert Brown

[See Mats and Morgan]

Click here for Meshuggah's web site

Message [Germany]

The Dawn Anew Is Comin' (71), From Books and Dreams (73), Message (75), Synapse (76), Astral Journey (78), Miles Of Smiles (80)

German euro-rock band in the vein of Nektar.

Metagaia [Japan]
Updated 6/10/06

Phonogenix (05)
Very nice if somewhat tedious blend of tech-jazz ambience with World beat overtones. The result is a little like Tangerine Dream meets Peter Gabriel without the singing but not nearly as compelling as either. -- David Marshall
Click here to order Metagaia from Musea Records

Metamorfosi [Italy]
Updated 9/10/04

E Fu Il Sesto Giorno (72)
Inferno (72)
Paradiso (04)
A short lived Italian band only releasing two albums, the average ...E Fu Il Sesto Giorno and the classic Inferno. The latter featuring great use of the Moog as well as other amazing keyboard work, the band puts together an album length suite that is one of the classics in the history of symphonic progressive music. A must.
This heavy progressive album is a dark and intense moog workout. The keyboardist has his Emerson chops down, from the Hammond stylings to the barrelhouse/classical piano style. The Emersonian touches appear here and there throughout but this is not an ELP keyboard trio or anything near it. They explore dark corridors filled with cobwebs of intensity that ELP were too wimpy to explore. There is some wonderfully penetrating moog work on this (political?) concept album. Except for a couple of breaks, the many tracks flow together into a continuous piece. The vocalist strongly reminds me of Doug Ingle from Iron Butterly. The vocals are in Italian, but don't let that stop you. The lyrics are provided so you can sing along! Strongly recommended to fans of ELP and the moog synth.
The second album is the best with great keyboards and vocals (like ELP). It includes rock versions of the American and Soviet national anthems.
The above statements about Metamorfosi's two albums was correct in the early '90's when they were written. However, in the mid '90's, original keyboardist Enrico Oliveri and vocalist Domenico "Jimmy" Spitaleri together with new drummer Fabio Moresco and bassist Leonardo Gallucci reformed Metamorfosi and began playing "Inferno" in its entirety to appreciative Italian audiences. During this time, they composed and began playing Part II of an envisioned trilogy, titled "Paradiso". They recorded and released Paradiso in 2004. Yes, for those of you who have noticed the Dante "Divina Commedia" reference, they are currently working on Part III - Purgatorio to complete the trilogy.

Though I haven't heard any of these albums, I was privileged to see Metamorfosi perform all of Inferno and Paradiso together at NEARfest 2004. It was an excellent performance, reminiscent of ELP due to the "power keyboard trio" format (guitarless, though the bass and vocals are split between two people, so they're not a trio), and also reminiscent of other Italian prog bands such as Le Orme. The vocals were excellent and powerful (and, of course, Italian), though Spitaleri spent a lot of time wandering around on the stage and "conducting" the other band members due to lengthy instrumental passages. Very good stuff! And as far as the quality of the new material compared to the old? I couldn't tell where one left off and the other began. They seem to have fully captured the '70's Italian Prog feel in their new material. Great stuff, and I intend to order both Inferno and Paradiso as soon as my CD budget allows ...

One more thing ... I'm keeping the link here to Spitaleri, Davide until someone can confirm this, just because it was in the original GEPR. However, I don't believe this is actually the same person as Domenico "Jimmy" Spitaleri. This may also negate the link to Thor, about whom I have even less knowledge. -- Fred Trafton

[See Spitaleri, Davide | Thor]

Click here for Metamorfosi's web site (in Italian or English)

Metaphor [USA]
Updated 5/23/09

Starfooted (00)
Entertaining Thanatos - Seven Cheery Songs About Death (04)
The Sparrow (07)
Metaphor 2007 (at Aricebo) - (not necessarily in photo order) Jim Anderson (bass), John Mabry (vocals), Marc Spooner (keyboards), Malcolm Smith (guitars) and Greg Miller (percussion)

Original entry, 12/4/00:
I get a lot of CD's for review in the GEPR. Most of them will go on the shelf after I'm done reviewing them and won't be dusted off for playing for my own enjoyment once I'm done with the review. Nothing against them ... I've just got too many new and old favorites to choose from. Starfooted will be an exception ... it's going to be on my personal playlist for some time to come.

Starfooted is an old-fashioned concept album. Lots of linked songs, recurring themes and a philosophy, in this case a great story based on Gnostic scriptures, though the band members are quick to say they are not Gnostics themselves. To quote from their web page: "... a lot of what gnosticism teaches is really, really icky. Like the body being evil, women being evil, and stuff like that." However, they do a great job of exploring some of the interesting aspects of Gnosticism. They paraphrase Gnostic scriptures like The Thunder, Perfect Mind, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Reality of the Rulers (also known as The Hypostasis of the Archons).

Metaphor started life as a Genesis tribute band, and this is still evident listening to Malcolm Smith's Steve Hackett-like attack-suppressed and long-sustained guitar parts, and Mark Spooner's Banksian keyboard work. There's a bass part in "Ladder from the Sky" that's (practically) one of the motifs used in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. In fact, much of this album is extremely reminiscent of Selling England By The Pound-era Genesis. OK, so what? That's a great sound! Besides, there's also parts that sound more like Yes, particularly Steve Howe-ish guitar work, and other more neo bands, especially early Spock's Beard (The Light) and Clutching at Straws-era Marillion. Plus a lot of stuff that sounds very progressive, but not that much like anyone else. Unlike many Prog bands, these guys are also good at producing catchy, singable (hummable) melodies. And the fast (sequenced?) synth intro to "Starfooted in a Garden of Cans" is just too cool (actually, it's sort of a 2nd intro after an opening medieval/fugue section). Just don't ask me what "starfooted" is supposed to mean.

Metaphor has changed bass players since the release of this CD (Jim Anderson replaces Jim Post), and are currently working (slowly) on another CD. Don't hold your breath ... they are thinking maybe they'll start recording sometime late in 2001. By then, I will definitely be ready for some new tunes, and to see what direction they take from here! -- Fred Trafton

This [Starfooted -Ed.] is a good first album for this new progressive band. The voice, musicians and melodies are good. You can ear an old Genesis influence, and also, from old memories (don't hold this against me), The Strawbs from the voice and orchestra like arrangements. They will need to find their "own" sound in the next album, and I'm sure it will be one to look for. -- Sylvain Shea
Updated 9/10/07:
I waited with bated breath for the release of Entertaining Thanatos. I had even heard one cut I sorta liked on the BayProg sampler CD that came with the Spring, 2002 issue of Exposé magazine ("When it All Comes Together"). However, I just never took much of a shine to this album. I guess I really liked the concept of Starfooted and was hoping for a bit more of a concept than "Seven Cheery Songs About Death" (the subtitle of Entertaining Thanatos). The songs aren't bad, you understand, they just didn't do that much for me. When a band puts all their heart and soul into an album, I just hate writing a bad review of it, especially when it's not terrible. It just didn't really speak to me in the way that Starfooted did. So, I kept putting off updating the Metaphor entry. Until, I now realize, I had something good to say.

OK, with the release of The Sparrow, I do have something good to say. Wow! This album is everything anyone could want out of a prog album. In fact, it's so "formula" that I suspect some people will give them a bad review because of it. Another concept album, a rock opera (of a sort ...), a science-fiction theme, and plenty of predictable prog orchestration (Hackettish guitars, Mellotrons, etc.) might almost make this album a parody of what prog's all about. Except that it's real good. I for one don't have enough good things to say about it.

First of all, the concept album ... I love a concept album if it's about a concept that I can care about (sorry ... "death" isn't really on my list). Rock operas are great too, though this one would fall a bit flat if it was to be rated as purely a rock opera ... too much of the story is told by text in the CD liner notes during instrumental cuts. But, as a prog album, this works just fine. And the much-maligned "science fiction story" is another thing that people take pot-shots at. With lots of boring "Bug-Eyed monsters ate my Buick" Sci-Fi as examples, I can't say I blame them. But real science fiction tells amazing stories about who we are as humans, simply using the sci-fi aspects as a way to put things into a perspective that can't be accomplished by more mainstream methods. The Sparrow is such a story, and the band has chosen a great one here, and has almost done it justice ... I say "almost" because I'm sure the book is even deeper. They have convinced me I need to obtain a copy and read it, though. Still, within the limits of a CD's worth of music, Metaphor has done about as well as it's possible to do.

Musically, there are still echoes of Genesis circa The Lamb and maybe even some Gentle Giant here and there. But mostly, they've created their own signature sound, and have used it to great advantage for The Sparrow. Beautiful, alien chords and harmonies vie for time with raspy dissonances that then resolve into more pleasant musicality. They even resisted the temptation to overdo the Mellotron for the alien singers ... the first vocal Mellotron doesn't show up until 3/4 the way through the album. Very tasteful. And John Mabry's vocals cut through it all with his own distinctive style that really doesn't sound like anyone else. The orchestration and interplay of instruments is phenomenal, and never gets boring. The only thing that grates a bit is the vocal harmony when they sing "Another Ball in Free Fall" ... it's just a bit too country-sounding for me. But that's about the worst thing I can say about the album, and that's over with in a few stanzas.

In summary, Metaphor's Grades are: Starfooted: A+, Entertaining Thanatos: B-, The Sparrow: A+. Not a bad report card. Go to their web site and order your copy of The Sparrow now! One of the best things I've heard this year. Essential. -- Fred Trafton

[See Mind Furniture]

Click here for Metaphor's web site
Click here to find out more about Gnosticism from The Gnosis Archive web site
Click here for Mary Doria Russell's web site (author of The Sparrow)
Click here for Patricia van Lubeck's web site (cover artist for The Sparrow)

Metcalf, Thomas [USA]
Updated 11/8/07

One (89)
Electronic progressive music artist who used to be a designer for Ensoniq (maker of digital sampling keyboards and music workstations, recently merged with EMU) when he recorded this. But it's clear from his music that he knows as much about music as he knows about circuit design, and the two talents have obviously merged well in creating this circuit-realized music. He has only one CD now, titled One, but he's working on his second now (do you suppose he'll call it Two?).

Some have compared Metcalf to Gentle Giant. Well, sort of, in terms of the complexity of the harmonies and counterpoints. But I don't think that's a really great comparison. The closest artist to compare Metcalf's music to would be Larry Fast's Synergy, especially Electronic Realizations For Rock Orchestra since Metcalf uses Mellotron sounds in a similar way. One is arguably even more classically derived, however.

As a matter of fact, Larry Fast wrote a liner note for his CD. Oddly, he ends an otherwise glowing review with "this is some great music to confront". A back-handed compliment at best, and a bit unfair. This music does wander away from the "easy" sounds of Synergy and into the more serious electronic realms. Some of it reminds me of Wendy Carlos' "Timesteps", for example. But, personally, I didn't find it necessary to "confront" any of this CD, in fact it's very enjoyable and stimulating to listen to. In she same way that Electronic Realizations For Rock Orchestra is a misnomer (it's neither "rock" nor is it an "orchestra"), One can't really be called "Progressive Rock". It's too rooted in classical and classical electronic genres to have much "rock" left. But don't take that as a negative ... this is great music! You just can't dance to it. (Did you want to?)

I wish Metcalf well in his quest to obtain enough of an audience through Internet distribution to make a second CD possible. I advise that you go to his web site and listen to some samples of this CD. If you like melodic, rhythmic, non-spacey and definitely not-new-age electronic music (as I do), you'll like what you hear. Definitely recommended. -- Fred Trafton

Really good cyber-prog that hit me immediately as music one might hear in a modern sci-fi movie about the World being run by computers -- or what you'd get if Disney remade Tron and hired David Bagsby to do the score (which they should do on both counts, by the way). Along these lines it also reminds a little of video game music but on a higher, more dramatic level and about which my friend Cliff would sarcastically say, "Anyone could do this. You just randomly hit the keys of a sampler and voíla!" No, Cliff, not exactly. There is of course much more to it -- more work, knowledge and vision. And Metcalf sounds nothing like Gentle Giant or U.K. of whom he is compared to (on his own website!), or maybe that's just the closest comparison to make if you stopped listening to new music in 1979. -- David Marshall
After David Marshall sent in the above review, I got to thinking about Thomas Metcalf and wondered what was up with him. I got in contact with him via e-mail. He hasn't released any new music since One, but he's still slowly creating compositions in his spare time, which he one day hopes to release. He sent me MP3's of a couple of his post-One compositions, and they're simply excellent. Quite similar to the One material, but perhaps even more mature and intricate. I'd love to share them with you, but Metcalf wants to hold on to them until he's ready to assemble a new album. Which, of course, I respect. So you'll just have to wait!

What's taking up most of Metcalf's time nowadays is his work. He and several other Ensoniq expatriates formed a company called Aviom who makes a very interesting product for live performance. It's hard to describe in a few words, but I would have loved to have had a system like this back in my band days. Check out the web site for more info. While we're waiting for the release of Two. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Thomas Metcalf's web site (seems to be down as of 11/8/07)
Click here for Aviom's web site

Metheny, Pat [USA]

Bright Size Life (75), Watercolors (77), Pat Metheny Group (78), New Chautauqua (79), American Garage (79), 80/81 (81), As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita (81), Offramp (82), Travels (83), First Circle (84), Rejoicing (84), Song X (85) (w/ Ornette Coleman), Still Life (Talking) (87), Letter From Home (89), Question and Answer (90), Secret Stories (92)

Ones to stay away from: Song X and 80/81, due to their atonal free-jazz feel, I don't think many prog fans would enjoy these two. The rest of his catalog is pretty good, jazzy and easygoing guitar with piano, bass, drums and sometimes vocal accompaniment (no lyrics!) . Some of his best albums are: First Circle, New Chautaqua, Travels(live), American Garage, and As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls, just to name a handful.

Jazz guitar player who could be (and has been) good, but comes over sounding average most of the time. On Song X, he experiments with free-jazzer Ornette Coleman for some of his best work in the jazz realm. This may appeal to you if you are a RIO or free-jazz fan. It's some tough listening but can be very powerful. 80/81 is also one of his best works in the jazz field. As far as I'm concerned, the rest of his work varies in quality. I find that the problem is his use of guitar synthesizer. It tends to blur any distinction in his style, and it doesn't vary among tunes, giving albums a feel of sameness. However, if you're cautious, start with the live Travels which provides a cross-cut of some of his better material.

[See Egan, Mark | Mays, Lyle]

Metro [UK]

Metro (77), New Love (79), Future Imperfect (80)

Metro was Peter Godwin, Sean Lyons, and Duncan Browne. Their one and only self-titled album from '76 was a hyper-stylized pop with an ethereal feel which was created mainly by the unique vocal harmony style of Godwin and Browne. The extent to which this could be called truly progressive is doubtful, but it is unique enough to warrant a listen, as there are many prog fans that would definitely enjoy this.

[See Browne, Duncan]

Metropolis [UK]
Updated 2/29/08

The European Suite (85)
This is a trio of M. Guy Fletcher, piano and synthesizer, James C. Johnson, piano and synthesizer and Bryan Daly, guitar, with several guests playing drums, saxophones, piccolo, oboe, bass and percussion. The music is very classical in style and the first group that comes to mind is Sky, and while the music is not as complex as Sky, [it is] still very beautiful and progressive. The record is composed of nine themes and all except one are name after eight capitals of Europe, (London, Paris, Vienna, Dublin, Rome, Berlin, Athens, and Madrid.) and except for a choir in Rome, from the Ladies of the Brompton Oratory Choir this is an instrumental record.

This is the only record I own by this group and I don't know if they have more records or much about this group. I find this record in a thrift store that I like to go to look for vinyl and CD's. And you will [be] surprised [at] the music you can find in this kind of store. So plan a trip to you local thrift store, you never know what little jewel you can find. If you like Sky, [I'm] sure you will like this group. -- Julio Lopez

Meza, Arturo [Mexico]
Updated 8/1/02

Note: All albums are available on cassette, and after 1987 they are available on CD.
Alberto Chimal's estimate of the most progressive of them are marked with an asterisk.

In Principio Erat Verbum (84)*
No Vayamos A Irnos Sin El Mar (85)
Suite Koradi (85)*
Sin Titulo (87)
Requiem (88)*
Ayunando Entre Las Ruinas (88)*
70 Centavos (89)*
Para Un Compa (90)
En El Monte De Los Equinoccios (91)*
Cronica Sonora (90)*
A La Siniestra Del Padre (92)
Venadito Del Sol (93)
La Balada De Galaver (93)
La Sangre De Los Angeles (94)
Descalzos Al Paraiso (96)
Criando Cuervos (96)
Canciones Para Cantar En El Infierno Vol. I (98)*
Nemesis (99)
Jorge Luis Borges: Homenaje En El Centenario De Su Natalicio (1899-1999) (99)*
Canciones Para Cantar En El Infierno Vol. 2 (01)*
El 33 De Este Mes (01)

Arturo Meza

Arturo Meza is a Mexican composer, singer and performer. Although he is most widely known in his country as a "trovero" -- an urban folk singer in the line of Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash -- several times during his career, which began in the early eighties, he has ventured into progressive rock. For example, his early eighties LPs Suite Koradi and Requiem are electronic progressive, album-length works in a minimalist vein; in these, as in several tracks of the two volumes of the nineties collections Canciones para Cantar en el Infierno (Songs to be Sung in Hell), he plays alone a special set of keyboards called the "Teclaedro" and the "Mezáfono", a hand-made instrument which mixes several sound and noise sources. The result is very similar to Popol Vuh, yet more subdued and disturbing.

In most of his eighties albums, he adds guitars, bass, and percussions to the electronic base, and delivers what some may call progressive folk, although the arrangements are sometimes quite simple. More clearly progressive pieces can be found in arguably his three best albums, Ayunando entre las ruinas (Fasting in the Ruins), 70 centavos (70 Cents), and En el Monte de los Equinoccios (On the Mount of the Equinox), all from the late eighties and the early nineties. The last of those is particularly interesting: though not a unitary work (it is a collection of six disparate songs) it is a piece of symphonic progressive, not unlike the very early Genesis but with practically no percussion; this makes the sound quite unique, and the vocals by Meza (soft and flute-like, unlike the ones heard in other works of his, in which he uses a harsh, throaty voice) make it even stranger, nearer to Art Zoyd or Dead Can Dance. The same style, which may be his most interesting contribution to the Mexican prog music, can be heard in a recent CD, Jorge Luis Borges: Homenaje en el Centenario de su Natalicio (JLB: an Homage in his 100th Birthday), which features several poems of the Argentinian writer set to music by Meza. -- Alberto Chimal

Click here for Arturo Meza's web site (in Spanish)

Mezcla [Cuba]
Updated 10/6/06

Cantos (92)
Fronteras de Sueno (93)
Rocasón (97)
Akimba! (02, Live)
Las Puertas Estan Abiertas (??)

Excellent Latin fusion ensemble from Cuba who was banned in the U.S. until recently, Mezcla ('mixture') is a fiery and melodic hybrid of rock, Cuban and American jazz, and Afro-Brazilian percussives. Led by guitarist Pablo Menendez and fleshed out by a wonderful group on congas, bata drums, keys, horns and bass, these guys could easily be mistaken for World music. In actuality, they're a rare breed: a top notch jazz-rock band able to move easily between the fusion and World music arenas. If you don't care for Latin rhythms at all, then steer clear. But if you like progressive music with an exotic tinge and the same fire captured by Mahavishnu or RTF, Mezcla are highly recommended. Khaeon's 2002 release Akimba! is probably their best so far, the highlights being "Hijos de la Mezcla", "2124 Derby", and "Suzi's Mood" with guitar reminiscent of Robert Fripp(!). BTW, this is Carlos Santana's favorite Latin rock band. -- David Marshall

Click here for Mezcla's web site

Mezquita [Spain]

Recuerdos De Mi Tierra (79)

Fantastic symphonic progressive from Spain. Layers of synth intertwine with electric and flamenco guitar to create a gorgeous work of intensity and melody. Vocals are in Spanish, which I think has to be one of the nicest singing languages. Native Spanish influences as well as the best ideas from the Italian symphonic progressive bands can be heard throughout the music giving a unique twist to this subgenre. The intensity never lets up. One of the best from Spain, or anywhere for that matter.

Spain's late seventies "progressive rock" scene was flowing in the abundance of new and creative talent and this short lived band was practically at the zenith of this genre's adherants. A heavily folk influenced symphonic rock with an abundance of minor second intervals, Mezquita's music owed much to flamenco and classical stylings and showed a tendency to drift to romantic or haunting melodies. As with many of Mezquita's contemporaries such as Triana, Iman, Ibio and Granada, there is a strong King Crimson influence. Yet the overt cultural folk references remain strong, bringing a distinct original flavor that nearly remains a standard for Spanish progressive rock. Mezquitas music at times sits close to the Italians, with hints of Osanna and Semiramis; at other times the French like Shylock or Artcane. The level of comparisons should bring it into perspective, this is one of the supremely classic examples of European symphonic progressive rock.

MIA (Musicos Independientes Asociados) [Argentina]
Updated 5/9/02

Transparencias (76)
Magicos Juegos del Tiempo (77)
Cornonstipicum (78)
Conciertos (78, Live)
[See Vitale, Lito]

Miasma [UK]
and the Carousel of Headless Horses
Updated 2/29/08

Perils (05)
Manfauna (07, EP)
Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses - (not in photo order) Daniel O'Sullivan (guitars, harmonium), Orlando Harrison (piano, organ), Sara Hubrich (violin, viola), Leo Smee (bass) and David Smith (drums, percussion)

[There] is also a side project from two of the members [of Guapo], Daniel O' Sullivan and Dave Smith under the name Miasma. As far as I know they have two albums, Manfauna and Perils (05). This [Perils] is the one I have, this time the group is enlarged by five more musicians and also more instruments, like violin, viola, glockenspiel, autoharp, piano and flute, no Mellotron this time, the groups that comes to mind are Univers Zero and Present. Good stuff. -- Julio Lopez

[Manfauna,] the second release by this extraordinary group is another excellent piece of work, more of the same great music in Univers Zero style, complex instrumental music with a chamber-prog feel. This time they add bassoon to the instrumentation and the results are great, this is very good music play with great sense of musicianship. Only three tracks in about 21 minutes of music, but worth listening to. Highly recommended. -- Julio Lopez
[See Guapo]

Click here for Miasma's web site
Click here for Miasma's MySpace page

Midas [Japan]
Updated 5/9/02

Beyond the Clear Air (88)
II (96)
Third Operation (99)
International Popular Album (00)
UK like with violin/keyboard interplay.

Midian [Italy]

Soulinside (94)

Midian are a five piece of Francesco Foggi (vocals), Simone Baldini Tosi (vocals, violin, keyboards), Lorenzo Bellacci (acoustic and electric guitar), Cristiano Bonci (bass, pedal keyboard), and Lorenzo Travaglini (drums, electronic percussion). Where some prog/metal bands, such as Alembic Virtual and Gerard, blend their metal style with decent portions of more traditional progressive qualities, Midian increases the alloy content and molten speed, at the sacrifice of some progressiveness. I didn't particularly care for Foggi's vocal traits, although I'm hard-pressed to put into words exactly why. I guess he's just too "up-front" for my tastes. Tosi's violin adds depth, and may cause some comparisons between Midian and fellow Italians Deus Ex Machina to be drawn. I think Midian pale in such a comparison, though. The guitar work is the focal point. Bellacci likes to display his fretting speed, running up and down musical scales as fast as possible. The rhythm section suits the style of a hard rock/metal band, heavy up front but lacking in detail. There is one notable exception, "Inside." This piece is a gentle, two minute acoustic guitar and violin piece. This brief interlude gives way to the power riffs and Midian are once again at the steel mill. Midian will probably appeal to those of you solidly into the progressive metal genre. -- Mike Taylor

Midnight Sun [Denmark]

Rainbow Band (70), Midnight Sun (72), Walking Circles (72), Midnight Dream (74)

Another band from Denmark. I found Midnight Sun (recorded around 1971 I guess, published on Teldec) recently and bought it because of the nice cover made by Roger Dean. The music is great Scandinavian jazzrock/fusion-stuff with a strong rock feel, maybe Colosseum or the compatriots Burnin Red Ivanhoe would be a good comparison. Among the six players (bass, guitar, drums, keybords, sax and vocals) is one Peer Frost who is said to be Denmarks best guitar player at that time (as the liner notes say), and he is really excellent. If you find this one, pick it up! Walking Circles also has a great cover by Roger Dean and is like Midnight Sun, so the best comparison is again Colosseum. -- Achim Breiling

Might of Coincidence [Switzerland]
Updated 3/5/05

The Birth of ... (71)

Mighty Baby [UK]

Mighty Baby (69), A Jug of Love (71)

Excellent band from the early UK scene. The influences are more psych than prog. Dominated by the music of Martin Stone's excellent guitar work, the band's style can't be nailed to anything concrete. Their first album is a nice mixture that will remind you variously of the Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, and no one at all. Hardly derivative, this band can boogie with the best. Nearly all the musicians were successful session men. Songs like "Same Way from the Sun," "House With No Windows" and "Trails of a City" are dynamic vehicles for Stone's driving guitar. Other songs, such as "I'm From the Country" highlight a country influence, while "At a Point Between Fate and Destiny" demonstrate an introspective quality. A Jug of Love reveals a band that has matured while remaining true to their unique style. The songs have gotten longer and more exploratory. Acoustic guitar jams are featured, such as in the wonderful "Virgin Springs." The comparison to early Grateful Dead is stronger in songs like "Keep on Juggin'," but this is better and more spacious. It is very unfortunate that this band was not very well known beyond its core of fans. The band was unique, imaginative, and quite innovative for that time.

[See Habibiyya]

Miklagård [Sweden]

Miklagård (79)

ELP influenced keyboard prog.

Milkweed [Canada]

Milkweed (78)

Rare Canadian ensemble reissued on the Symphonic label. Rather dull actually.

Miller, Phil [UK]

Cutting Both Ways (88), Split Seconds (89), Digging In (91)

Yes, this is the same Phil Miller who played in several of the legendary Canterbury bands, most notably Hatfield and The North and National Health. He carries on in essentially a follow-on from the style of early National Health, an extended jazz-fusion sound pioneered by bands like Soft Machine, yet refined stylistically and sounding far more up to date. On the first of his Cuneiform releases Cutting Both Ways, tracks are split between those recorded with the band In Cahoots (which includes Pip Pyle, drummer alumnus of National Health, bassist Hugh Hopper and reedsman Elton Dean, both formerly of Soft Machine during their most productive period, and keyboardist Pete Lemer), and those recorded with Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin (both ex-NH). A later release Digging In shows Phil doing exactly that, more of a guitar show this time than the previous, with help from Pyle, Lemer, and Fred Baker. Both of these are exceptional releases that should appeal to fans of the Canterbury sound or fusion in general.

I've got Digging In and I was somewhat disappointed when I got it. Miller's trademark guitar tone is traded in for MIDI controlled sounds. Except for a few brief moments, you can't really tell it's a guitar playing. I don't mind some MIDI guitar, but if you're going to bury the essence of the electric guitar, why bother? The writing isn't the strongest either, the arrangements being mundane and uninteresting. Cutting Both Ways is said to be much better, and contains some of his In Cahoots work. -- Mike Taylor

[See Gong | Hatfield and the North | In Cahoots | Matching Mole | National Health]

Millo, Mario [Australia]
Updated 5/16/01

Epic III (79)
Guitarist for Sebastian Hardie, Windchase. The first solo album by ex-Sebastian Hardie and Windchase guitarist Millo starts along the same symphonic track as his earlier bands, but proves to be a more uneven whole than those three albums. The 14-minute title track is the main interest here, being guitar-driven symphonic rock with some Yes influence (Millo's voice and some of his acoustic guitar parts seem to anticipate Trevor Rabin's era in Yes' history, but the musical influences and the trebly, translucent electric guitar tone are more keeping with the late 1970's version). The song's eight sections offer heroic lead guitar work, bouncy and catchy melodies, some delicate choral vocals, ornamental acoustic guitar, and generally seems to flash past in about five minutes. The rest of the songs are shorter and wander around in style and quality. The best of these, IMO, is the beautiful, Steve Hackett-like "Quest Theme" with delicate acoustic guitar, a lovely flute melody and some nicely atmospheric keyboards and vocals. "Mary's Theme" harks back to Millo's previous works, as it has Camel-like mellow guitar leads and a loose, Rhodes-assisted jam feel which makes it sound more like a collection of solos around a theme, rather than a fully developed song. "Life in Our Hands" is a straight-forward vocal number offset by a few left-field synth and chorus bits, but "Harlequin and Columbine" is just an old-fashioned waltz piece, with the duet between Millo and a female guest vocalist soaked into a swirl of sentimental strings. Even weirder is the brief "Castaway" whose phat and phunky synth bass and tuned percussion give it almost a Caribbean feel; it sounds like a precursor to the new agey synth-pop of bands like Quiet Force. Well-written and excellently produced, Epic III is a bit inconsistent but generally recommendable album to fans of symphonic rock from a time when that whole genre was quickly becoming obsolete (I wonder whether this contributed to the rather small role and sound allocated to keyboards, at least in comparison to Millo's earlier bands). Musea's CD version (FGBG 4319.AR) contains the bonus track "Rebecca", a nice Camelesque instrumental with a whiff of Middle-Eastern air about it. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Sebastian Hardie | Windchase]

Minasian, David [USA]
Updated 6/14/11

Tales of Heroes and Lovers (84)
It's Not Too Late (96, w/ William Drews) (Album cover misspells his name as "Minazian", but it's the same guy)
Random Acts of Beauty (10)
David Minasian

David Minasian has been around making symphonic prog albums for quite a while. My first guess is that this is an oldish photo of him, unless he started making albums at the age of ten. I've only heard his latest release, Random Acts of Beauty. It's very pretty. Very symphonic. Symphonically pretty. Hugely, massively, sweetly, syrupily (is that a word?) symphonically pretty, overdubbed to the point of ... well, did you ever eat too much Halloween candy and get sick? Me neither. But this album makes me believe it's possible to overdose on too much sweetness. It's certainly hard to fault the composition or recording or beautifulliosity of it ... but there's just so MUCH of it I can hardly stand it. Actually, the overly perfect model on the front cover should warn you ... very beautiful, but also a bit on the artificial side. So, I would hesitate to recommend it ...

Except ...

This album features Andy Latimer of Camel's first recording after a long silence while battling a blood disease that very nearly did him in, and a treatment regimen that was hardly any better. Andy Latimer only plays on the first cut, "Masquerade", and also contributes vocals. These are somewhat buried in the mix, but the song appears to be (at least partly) an excuse for a lengthy guitar solo, and Latimer shows that he can still deliver the goods. This one song is worth the price of admission ... though you MIGHT opt to download this one song from Mindawn for only $1.98 ($2.48 for the FLAC version) instead. Normally, I wouldn't advise the one-song-download idea, but in this case, you might consider it. If you like the song and think you'd like a whole album of this sort of thing even without Andy Latimer on the rest of it, you could always go back and get the whole thing.

For what it's worth, Minasian is also a film producer, most famous for producing several Camel DVD's. Which is, of course, how he knows Andy Latimer. -- Fred Trafton

[See Camel]

Click here for David Minasian's web site
Click here for David Minasian's MySpace page
Click here to order Random Acts of Beauty from ProgRock Records

Mind Furniture [USA]
Updated 5/23/09

The End of Days (00)
Hoop of Flame (07)
Mind Furniture - (Top) John Mabry (vocals, guitar), (Bottom, L to R) Brett Barnett (keyboards, vocals), Paul Harrison (bass), Greg Miller (drums). Also, not shown is Bill Estes (lead guitar)

Let's get the dry statistics out of the way first. Mind Furniture is a Bay Area band. Their latest album, Hoop of Flame shares both lead vocalist John Mabry and drummer Greg Miller with Metaphor. Mind Furniture's first album, End of Days, featured Chris Ogburn of Puppet Show on lead guitar. So enough of pedigrees ... on with the musical description.

Like Metaphor's albums, the lyrical themes of Hoop of Flame are christian in nature. That's doubtless due to the fact that vocalist John Mabry's "day job" is Catholic priest. However, a quick perusal of his blog (see link below) shows he's not exactly the most conventional of priests, which you might also guess by a listen to his lyrics. Actually, though the music on Hoop of Flame is certainly quite good (in a Floydian or "Classic Rock" band sort of way), it's the lyrical content (and Mabry's delivery) that sells me on this album.

Hoop of Flame is really two "side-long" suites. The first one, "The Trial" (23'25") is a story of God being called down to stand trial for His crimes. His self-defense is poignant and fairly heretical, which makes me applaud Mabry's courage and thoughtfulness. I doubt that Pope Benedict would approve. Perhaps most interesting is the final "movement", "The Verdict", which is an instrumental cut, leaving the listener to pass their own judgement on the outcome of "The Trial". Brilliant.

The second cut is the album title, "Hoop of Flame" (29'40"), beginning with an invocation of the hindu god of destruction, Shiva. The other songs are interpretations of christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard's "Three Stages of Existential Awareness", bookended by another hymn to Shiva, complete with some Santana-like guitar soloing. Perhaps the free-thinking liberalism of the San Francisco area has "tainted" Mabry's views ... if so, they're "tainted" in a way that I find both refreshing and appealing. I really like Hoop of Flame and recommend it to anyone who wasn't made uncomfortable by reading this review. If I lived there, I'd attend a service in his church just to hear him talk. And I'm not even Catholic. Did you guess? -- Fred Trafton

[See Metaphor | Puppet Show]

Click here for Mind Furniture's web site
Click here for John Mabry's theological blog

Mind Gallery [Canada]
Updated 3/6/01

The Lemmings Were Pushed (92)
Guilty Until Proven Rich (95)
Three Meals From Revolution (00)
Mind Gallery

Canadian instrumental four piece who play a spirited symphonic fusion full of strong melodics, powerful rhythms, dynamic stretch and fluid arrangements. Comparable to Edhels, later period Maneige, maybe even Holding Pattern - but Mind Gallery have a more "psychedelic" feel and less of the delicate artiness of Edhels, more of a direct rock attack than the percussive complexity of Maneige. Like all good progressive music, emphasis is placed on the overall arrangements and not on soloing. Most progressive fans should enjoy this a lot.

The Lemmings Were Pushed is all instrumental, crisply executed guitar/ keyboard-based progressive rock from a new Canadian band. The guitar is quite prominent, and one could regard this as neo-progressive rock without the vocals, combining elements from 90125-era Yes with, perhaps, Magellan, with greater variety and power.
Mind Gallery are a relatively new Canadian quartet. Many have hailed them as an outstanding example of a new band with some Genesis influences that don't sound like neo. While I agree that they do show some Genesis and Yes (as well as fellow Canadians, Maneige) influences and don't sound neo-prog at all, I think they have been hyped quite a bit. Entirely instrumental, they have a bassist, a drummer, a guitarist and a keyboardist. The songs range from the short (less than two minutes) "Bent Straight" to the eight minute "Earth Rebirth." Most songs are in the 4-6 minute range. About two thirds of the way through the album I start to lose interest--it all sounds the same. They seem to me generally talented on their instruments so perhaps it is the writing; I just can't get very excited about these guys. Perhaps it is the lack of dynamics. Perhaps it is the lack of variety in the tonal palette. Perhaps it's the bassist and drummer to don't get actively involved. Whatever, the music fails to draw me in or get me excited. Not bad but there's much better.
Regarding Three Meals From Revolution :

Prologue: Five years after the release of the very strong Guilty Until Proven Rich album one of the best Canadian progressive rock bands for all time is back, at last. All the fans of Neo Progressive Rock, please be forewarned: "Three Meals from Revolution" is really instruMENTAL music. This is a complex Philosophy without words, and each piece brings really marvellous associations within itself.

The Album: It all starts with a message "To the Four Winds" that blow in the Univercity. Sun Wind is the King of all Winds. First lines of the message appealing to Him are full of a wise calmness in conformity with the Nature of the King, and all the keyboard's passages bring to Him the energy of Spacy Laws. Interstellar Wind, like Mercury, is a cheerful courier, such a Dispatch-Wind, blowing anywhere in the Universe. Soft yet rhytmical notes by acoustic guitar and synthesizer are dedicated to Him in conformity with His Nature. Planetary, or better to say, Interplanetary Wind is the most strong of this magic Four. He moves the planets, drives the asteroids, comets and all the other cosmic rays. Lines appealing to Him are full of power, diversity and unexpected combinations, as well as worn-out notes-paraboles in conformity with His Nature. This is the kingdom of powerful guitar riffs and virtuostic playing, or better to say, interplaying by all the Four Messengers. Fourth Wind is the Wind of All The Space Invisible Seas, whose Visible Nature is a Mirror that reflects only the Natures of the three first Winds. So, Its True Nature is the Nature of the Sacred Three.

"Armageddonouddahere" begins with the blowing of Earthly Wind, the younger brother of the Four Winds, who presented them sounds of the singing of Earthly Birds. Earthly Wind is the Wind of Time, though originally He lives in Timelessness, the Wind of Events, the Wind of Changes. Hear, this composition definitely reflects all these sides of Earthly Life, whose Nature is the same Complexity within a Diversity, and the other way round. Distorted chords and solos by keyboards and guitar, nervous pulsations of bass, slightly arrythmic drumming paint a vivid picture of everyday Earthly Armageddon, so an Intricate Drama is the right combination of words to describe "Armageddonouddahere".

The same strenuous atmosphere is on "Free the Free". Like Earthly events, definitely arranged improvisations by all the four Messengers are rushing, mixing among themselves in a united stream that's called Earthly Life. Do you want to hear a wonderfully harmonius collective thinking of independent virtuosos? Do you believe a united terrible chaos of myriads of separate Earthly events is also Harmony? The latter one is just an abstract question... no more than just a question... the eternal question, though.

"Nothing is Not", strange though it may seem, sounds a bit more optimistic in the beginning. Yes, Nothing is just an illusion in the Timelessness, but we all know that such words like Nothing and Not sound mainly negatively in our Earthly life. So, about a minute after the beginning of the composition, a 'nice' pair, Drama and Suddenness, are back in the music of the Four Messengers of the Four Eternal Winds that are none other than Love, Hope, Faith and Understanding.

"The Increate". Quite a quiet, on the whole, composition reminds about an illusory calmness within our Earthly life in the face of Future. And only some as if accidental notes of the same feeling of Drama manifest themselves from time to time. Bringers of Earthly Reality, they are sure, the believers are blessed, and the sleepers are just dotty.

"Ennui in You". Wow, that's true. But, seems Ennui in me (in us) sounds not bad, I'd even say, it sounds very nice to a certain extent - like a light sorrow of Eternal Life. Beautiful modulations of acoustic guitar, wonderful rise and falls of acoustic piano sound exactly so. But anyhow, whether I (we) like it or not, I (we) hear how the drops of tears - solos of a crying guitar - are falling onto Earth. Perhaps not Tragedy, but something very much like it anyway. Drama is the word. The word remains the same... The world remains the same...

"What Goes a Round". Really, it is something special. Reminds me of having a hangover. A true state of the 'hair of the dog' is closer to death, so thinking about the continuation of genus is just the most reasonable sure remedy. Have you ever heard "sexclusive" notes in some music? Do you think the words stated above are just a primitive philosophy? But, can you really suggest something more effective for self-preservation in those, to put it mildly, unpleasant moments of our Earthly existance?

"Walking the Dogma". Yeah, Dogma is walking exactly so. What is more, it goes so round my (our) way(s). So let's reject all the traditional teachings and look at the world with our own eyes wishing all the very best to the sleepers. My congratulations on "as if" worn-out guitar solos and the asymmetric drumming that act against the monotony of Dogma, beautifully showed by keyboard. One of the most 'crafty' (ingenious!) compositions on the album.

"Medieval to Fullevil". My English is poor, and I don't know what is it - Fullevil. I only see here the combination of two words - Full and Evil. The Middle Ages were full of evil, as well as any other 'ages' on Earth, including the present one. The same picture, the same word - Drama. This composition is a pure magic with lots of exquisite acoustic" and "electric" arrangements. Of course, some of all these wonderful chords and solos, plays and interplays, have an obvious medieval touch, though there are no medieval or chamber instruments in the band's arsenal.

"Custer's Last Stand". A real epic progressive killer. There is a "heroic spirit" sound in the first and last guitar solos, but anyway, most arrangements here are full of Drama, too. Surely, any kind of heroism contains drama within itself. "Custer's Last Stand" sounds a bit optimistic not for nothing because, having a drama, all we really need to add in our everyday existence are the elements of inner heroism. I only hope this last track of the best work this Canadian band ever created, called exactly so, won't be their own last stand - I do wish Mind Gallery to carry on to make some people happy with their music as long as possible. It is a Mission, though.

Summary: Need I add here they perform a very original, melodious yet complex and virtuostic Progressive Rock if they are able to bring quite concrete associations without words? I will just add, this album was recorded and produced by Woman, as well as both previous Mind Gallery albums, by the way. Quite a unique case in the history of the genre. -- Vitaly Menshikov

Click here for the Official Mind Gallery web site
Click here for the OLD Official Mind Gallery site (a little stale, but has downloadable MP2 samples (NOT MP3!))
Click here for the band's ProgRadio web page

Mind Over Matter [Germany]
Updated 3/5/05

Music for Paradise (86/91)
The Colours of Life (88)
Trance 'n' Dance (90)
In Search of Eternity (92)
Live in Concert (93, Live)
Palace of the Winds (95)
Shambala (97)
Avatar (98)
Under The Stars (00)
On the Wings of the Wind (04)
Mind over Matter takes a bow after a concert

M.O.M. is german synthesist Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock. The music on his album The Colours Of Life is of the very ethereal spacy brand, the melodies tend to unravel slowly, flowing from one musical thought to the next. Comparable to TD circa Stratosfear, but with more updated modern electronics.

Music for Paradise (Innovative Communication IC 710.059) is very dreamy, abstract music with vaporous folds of sounds slowly drifting and evolving without many melodic or dramatic peaks to grab the listener's ear. The 25-minute "Paradise" suite is particularly static, with keyboard textures (lots of Mellotron, if that matters, as well as analog and digital synths) churning langurously over a slow, repetitive bass guitar pattern and tabla rhythms. Only part three, "Changes in Being (Fire)", stands out, for here the keyboard sounds perk up a bit as the band leader Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock gets his electric guitar out for a wailing solo. You can hear a few ideas borrowed from Stratosfear-era Tangerine Dream on some of the other songs, especially on the guitar sounds, though with less depth and intensity. Meditative but rarely captivating music. -- Kai Karmanheimo
Click here for Mind Over Matter's web site (in German)

Mindgames [Belgium]
Updated 3/8/04

International Daylight (02)
Mindgames - (not in photo order) Benny Petak (drums, percussion), Eric Vandormael (bass), Bart Schram (lead vocal, acoustic guitar), Rudy Vander Veken (guitar) and Tom Truyers (keyboards)

International Daylight is a very debut nice release from this five-piece Belgian symphonic prog band. They claim to be influenced by the usual suspects ... Yes, Zappa, Pink Floyd, Spock's Beard and Marillion. To my ears, they're more "Neo" than Yes, Zappa or Pink Floyd, but more "Classic Prog" than Spock's Beard or Marillion. They have a nice, thick symphonic sound while never straying too far into dissonance or discomfort. If I was to say anything bad about International Daylight, it would just be that the songs are a bit predictable ... to the jaded prog fan at least. But the songs are all nicely composed and executed nonetheless, and it's hard to find anything bad to say about these guys. A good listen, and very recommendable. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Mindgames' web site
Click here to order International Daylight from Musea Records

Mindworm [USA]
Updated 11/7/02

Mindworm (02, EP)
Mindworm - Top row: Shawn Malone (drums, percussion and engineering), Sean Tonar (guitars)
Bottom row: Rob Grabel (aux keys, percussion), Woody Crawford (bass), Kirk Barnes (vocals and keyboards)

Mindworm is an Atlanta, Georgia based band playing symphonic prog. They have so far released an EP consisting of three studio cuts ("Trolley", "Movin' In Movin' Out" and "Out of Uniform") and a fourth tune ("Pentatonic Lightning") that is more of a free-form jam. All the songs are good, but the improv cut is quite different in texture and style from the composed studio pieces. There are two other improv cuts available on their web site. Although I've enjoyed the improvised material, it is in the composed pieces that Mindworm shines.

It's pretty clear that Mindworm has been influenced by Genesis, particularly in "Trolly", and more particularly in "Trolly"'s vocals which are a dead ringer for Peter Gabriel. But they can be forgiven for this, since "Trolly" is a killer tune with lots of great twists and turns and each band member gets their chance to shine. The other two cuts are less blatantly Genesis-like, and also feature some nice vocal harmonies. Occasionally Phreeworld's vocal stylings come to mind. They sound absolutely nothing like that other Atlanta prog band, Timothy Pure, so there's certainly no "Atlanta sound" thing going on here. In fact, to read their web site, it was quite difficult to find several people in Atlanta with a similar enough vision to put this band together. Given what I've seen in my part of the country (North Texas), I can believe it.

This EP is a good omen of things to come, since the band is currently working on a full-length album of composed tunes. With regards to the improv stuff, Sean Tonar told me, "It's almost like a jekyll/hyde thing at the moment. I am tempted to make a whole CD of improvs and release it under a different band name even though it is still Mindworm". But the album will focus on composed pieces. I'll be looking forward to it ... the EP promises much, but has a few warts in the production which will hopefully go away on a "real" album. I'll be looking forward to hearing it! -- Fred Trafton

Remember the guitar solo? The event whose presence seems to be more and more fleeting in these days of post-rock and texture first? It was never the most common element of a symphonic rock album either, but its occasional presence had the ability to help the music transcend the normal, particularly at the right moment. Symphonic rock could perhaps be described as one of the more tired styles moving 30 years past its psychedelic origins, but there are always certain elements that can set one group apart from the masses. One obviously diminishes the potential for originality by performing music entirely within these boundaries, but a strong refinement is usually a good enough draw to overturn skepticism by the most ardent prog collector.

Mindworm is a new Georgia-area quartet whose debut EP, what might even be described as a demo of sorts due to its CD-R format, is one of those symphonic rock groups whose promise is vividly apparent. Heavily influenced by Genesis, from the Peter Gabriel era through the early 80s Collins period, Mindworm might have points taken off by those whose familiarity with the Genesis influence spans years of listening and comparison. Vocalist Kirk Barnes is a dead ringer for Gabriel at times and Collins at others, yet fortunately English is his first language and thus there is little awkwardness at all. But while other groups in the same style tend to clog up the works by too many lyrics, Mindworm already have the balance down picture perfect.

It's the instrumental sections that set the band apart. For minutes at a time, the band will launch into gorgeous vamps, often dominated by the able hand of guitarist Sean Tonar who lavishly erupts into extremely passionate solos at all the right moments (the climax towards the end of "Moving in Moving Out" is breathtaking). And Barnes doesn't only sing, but he also plays all the keys and even gets a solo in or two. The band's instrumental talents are even more pronounced on the EP's closer "Pentatonic Lightning," a piece described as an improvisation while sounding quite composed nevertheless.

Mind you, Mindworm are a band close to the beginning of the process. Production and takes aren't picture perfect, but I doubt perfection was aimed for this early in the game. Undoubtedly the honing process will come in force once the quartet puts out its first professional CD. Which makes the EP all the more exciting, perhaps the most exciting of its type since Azigza released ... whose portals are night and day. Perhaps Mindworm aren't quite at the same place originality-wise, but once you hear the talent here you know such things will be given with time. This is a name you will be hearing from. -- Mike McLatchey (of the Gnosis web site, reprinted with permission)

Click here for Mindworm's web site

Minefield, The [USA]
Updated 5/31/06

No releases yet
The Minefield - Rick Read (Stick), Ross Young (V-drums) and Mark Cook (Warr guitar)

How interesting can a band be without a vocalist and only two tap instruments and drums? I might have asked the same question if I'd never seen these guys. The answer is that they go well beyond interesting and into awesome! The Minefield is a "side project" of Rick Read on Stick and Ross Young on V-drums, both from Nerveworks, and Mark Cook playing Warr Guitar from 99 Names of God. Other than the live teasers on the web site [ no longer available], they have not released anything yet. However, they are will be recording their first CD the end of 2003 for an early 2004 release.

I first heard The Minefield on a demo recording sent to me by Rick Read. This was enough for me to invite them to the Ridglea Theater Progressive Rock Sundays series in Fort Worth, Texas. These guys say they never get a chance to practice together, but I've never heard such a display of interlocking melodies and precision playing since the days of '80's King Crimson, whose music is very similar to The Minefield. The Minefield got their name from the title of one of their songs, which was so complex that there was a "Minefield" of possibilities to make a mistake while playing it. Marvelously complex, but also very hypnotic. Just watching these guys play is a pleasure, the intricate way their fingers move on their fretboards ... HEARING them is even better! A great band, I suggest you visit their web site from time to time to check on the availability of their CD. If you're an '80's Crimson fan, you will love these guys!

Update 10/8/04
I just saw these guys last night for the first time in months, and got a chance to talk to them. Their CD is still in progress ... difficulties with the studio they were using and other commitments have slowed the project down. Rick Read says they are probably about half done at this point, and are continuing to work on it when they can. He also implied that we shouldn't hold our breaths for the release. Too bad ... in spite of not playing anywhere for months, they still sounded awesome! I hope some day you can buy their CD and hear them too. I'll keep you appraised.

Update 5/31/06
The Minefield has been back-burnered again as Mark Cook spends time working with Hands on their new album. Looks like that Minefield album may never see the light of day. But maybe some day ... -- Fred Trafton

[See Hands | Nervewerks | 99 Names of God]

Click here for The Minefield's web site

Mini [Hungary]
a.k.a. Török Ádám & Mini
Updated 10/17/06

Vissza a Városba (78)
Úton a Föld felé (79)
Koncert (80, Live)
Dzsungel (83)
Vissza a Városba (93, Compilation, Recorded 72-83)
More releases as Török Ádám & Mini, see link below
Flute-oriented 70's prog with a weak vocalist (reminds me of Locomotiv GT). I don't care much for these guys. -- Betta
Click here for more information

Minimum Vital [France]
Updated 10/17/06

Envol Triangles (85)
Les Saisons Marines (87)
Sarabandes (90)
La Source (93)
Esprit d'amour (96)
Au Cercle De Pierre (98, Live)
Atlas (04)
Minimum Vital 1997

The core of this French instrumental band are the brothers Thierry Payssan (keyboards) and Jean-Luc Payssan (guitars and voice), who write all of the band's material. The rhythm section of Eric Reyberol (bass) and Christoph Godet (drums) round out the sound. A few tracks have vocals, but mostly not. In general, their sound is a dynamo of guitar-keyboard interplay, with a strong classical presence. They truly have their own sound, but some vague references might be found in the group Sky, Girls Who Grow Plump period Caravan, seventies Soft Machine, and possibly even early Camel. The first album Envol Triangles has an overt yet subtle zeuhl presence, connecting it with the sound of bands like Zao, Weidorje, Paga and others, not overwhelming it, but adding to the unique sound of the band. Also felt is a hint of the band Shylock. For the second Album Les Saisons Marines they further developed the unique aspects of their sound, and shed some of the more derivative ones. The result is a positively stunning album of colorful acoustic-electric guitar and keyboard interchanges, odd time signatures, and compositional complexity. The CD reissue puts most of the material on Envol and Saisons on a single disc. For the third album Sarabandes, there is a stronger classical presence within their development, and a greater propensity to cut loose. Tracks like "Danza Vital" and "Hymne et Danse" offer ripping guitarwork and equally astonishing keyboard pyrotechnics. Others like "Porte Sur L'Ete" and "Cantiga De Santa Maria" showcase a more gentle side of the band's work. Any of these discs are an excellent introduction to what is probably one of the top five instrumental bands on the planet today.

Envol Triangles and Les Saisons Marines were the first two releases by the band Minimum Vital, and were available on cassette and LP formats, respectively, until the CD reissue, by the foremost French prog rock label, Musea. Minimum Vital's brand of music is very much in the French style, as characterised by bands such as Edhels, Asia Minor, and the like. The music is a blend of fusion and progressive rock, and all-instrumental, driven by guitars and keyboards, with a prominent flute presence on Envol Triangles. With two releases on one CD, the music clocks in at a little under 72 minutes. Also available is their subsequent release, Sarabandes. On this, the band really seems to have matured, and cover more ground than the previous releases, in that they employ a wider variety of moods and sounds in their musical pallette. This is probably the release with which one may gain an introduction to the band.
Minimum Vital groups four musicians on keyboards, guitars/voice, bass and drums. The music on Sarabandes is based on the compositions and interactions of the Payssan brothers (keyboards and guitars) who can count on a dynamic rhythm section. Their style is inspired by a strange mixture of symphonic rock, jazz et medieval folk. An excellent production blends acoustic and electric sonorities et usually maintains a certain lightness, except for truly heavier arrangements where the electric guitar work intensifies. Fresh music with a variety of influences that can reach the tastes of many. The foursome returns for La Source, with the compositions of the Payssan brothers (keyboards and guitars). Bass and drums still provide dynamic rhythms and guests on vocals (strange language) are now added. The music retains its lightness, symphonism as well as heavier guitar breaks. Dancing melodies and "modern" keyboard sounds can discourage fans of a more dramatic style; at least until the electric guitar kicks in. A strange blend of folk, rock, classical and jazz where multiple influences are fused in a contemporary sound. -- Paul Charbonneau
These folky French instrumentalists have received wide acclaim for their brand of modern French symphonic. Influenced by some of the early English bands as well as Atoll, Ange, and other French sympho outfits, Minimum Vital produces a very laid back sound. While "progressive," Minimum Vital takes the stylistic approach of bands like Eloy. Their pieces are solidly written, yet lack any dynamics or staying power for me. The drumming is especially a turn off - very mainstream, highly repetitive, etc. As a whole they are talented and their sound is more original than derivative, but it does little to keep my attention. The writing evokes nice melodies and catchy rhythms, but it is anything an amateur musician could play. Complexity level is low to mid. Many progressive rock fans regard this band highly, so keep that in mind when I add this to my list of overrated modern prog. Standing on its own, Minimum Vital is fine music, but compared to the best that the genre has to offer, they are completely mediocre. If you like the MV style, try out Italy's Nuova Era for a more energetic example of it. Many sympho fans would appreciate this offering, so I recommend they at least give it a listen before buying. If you're more oriented towards the fusion or RIO styles, give it two listens...
Combining elements of classical, jazz, and progressive, Minimum Vital creates a very unique sound. La Source is packed with loads of digital keyboards and a wide array of guitar sounds, and the textures keep changing to make it even more interesting. This band is masterful at creating a style within a song and wrapping it up into a coherent package. Each song on this album has its own flavor, and every one of them is fresh and unique. The performances by the keyboardist and guitarist are brilliant. The bassist also turns in a lively performance. And, best of all, someone (finally!) lit a fire under the drummer this time. His work on their previous albums was so lifeless, I thought for months that it was actually a drum machine programmed poorly. But here, he's turned it up several notches for an vibrant performance. The music is very bright and uplifting for the most part, sounding a little bit like Camel meets Kit Watkins. The sheer amount of digital keyboards and the occasional electronic drums make some of the passages seem a bit too cold and mechanical unfortuantely. Although each track has some vocals, they are used in a supporting role, rather than a lead role. This gives the album a predominantly instrumental feel. Easily the best work they have turned out to date, highly recommended, even to those who didn't like their earlier efforts (like me).
Perhaps the best-known, and nearly the best, of the new crop of French progressives on Musea. Envol Triangles establishes their sound, a distillation of late-period Canterbury music (mostly National Health), centred around Jean-Luc Payssan's guitar, which is very much in the Phil Miller mould. Digital keyboards give the music a decidedly modern feel, and Thierry Payssan is one of those rare few who can use them without sounding frigid. And while the drummer occasionally falls into foursquare rock pounding, he never stays that way for long. The band's debut, Envol Triangles, displays a strong flute presence in Anne Colas. It was her first and last album with the band, as both she and the original drummer (Antoine Fillon, replaced by Christophe Godot) left afterwards. Les Saisons Marines then appeared with no major alteration to the band's sound apart from some light vocalizing. (by guest vocalist Pascale Jakubowski) I haven't heard the band's third album, Sarabandes, but their latest album, La Source is my favourite. It is, if not their best album, their most memorable set of songs, and possibly the most representative of their sound. It also has the most vocals, with no less than three tracks with vocals. (by Jean-Luc Payssan) "Danse Des Voeux," "La Ville Emo" and "Tabou" are three of the most stimulating tracks here. Perhaps I'm just biased because La Source was the first Minimum Vital album I heard, but I'd say it's probably the best place to start, followed by Envol and Saisons. If you like National Health et al, you'll probably find Minimum Vital an entertaining continuation of the Health-y sound.
Given all the positive reviews on La Source, I had to throw my two cents in. Whats all the fuss about? The album opens with a horn (keyboard samples) section that sounds like it would fit on the next Phil Collins' studio album. To tell you the truth, Minimum Vital have always fallen short of my expectations, and I would rather have seen them try out the more instrumental side of their music. All of the songs are fairly simple (yet fleshed out a considerable degree), almost formulaic and have a digitally pristine sound that reminds me of most of the neo progressive groups. This is one album that many people are really going to like, its accessible, the melodies are often sunny, and its certainly symphonic. I suppose stylistically (with all the guitars and synth string chords) this is a progressive album, but to me it just sounds like a better than average pop album. Im sure this album will attract a lot of people overall, but if you're progressive tastes range to the more compplex, you'll probably be bored (especially with the boom thud drumming). It seems to me that MV succeeded doing what they wanted, although this is really not my style.
La Source is Minimum Vital's third CD and marks a break from the baroque and medieval flavor of their earlier releases. Although the CD artwork contains photos of medieval statues, the Minimum Vital quartet of keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums now plays a French form of jazz fusion. The lyrics of the opening song "Dance of Wishes (Song of May)" almost sound English but they are some sort of chant. "La Source" is mostly instrumental music by these accomplished musicians occasionally enhanced by soft falsetto vocals. The two songs that differ from the rest are "Les Mondes de Miranda" and "Ce Qui Soustient." "Les Mondes de Miranda" has a folk music theme reminding me of Amazing Blondel except for the brass samples. "Ce Qui Soustient" is a medieval rondo from the 14th Century by Guillaum de Machant given a wonderful treatment by Minimum Vital. I could almost picture myself in a cloister listening to this song. La Source is an interesting album that marks the evolution of the band.
Minimum Vital is a very good, relatively new band from France. They now have several albums released. My personal favorite, based on what I've heard are Envol Triangles, followed by Les Saisons Marines. The music is rather difficult to describe. Both albums have engaging compositions that are neither overly complex nor overly simple. The digital keyboards and acoustic and electric guitars create a rich sound with both a folk-like quality and a fusionesque edge. Minimum Vital can be soft without being pastoral. Other times, they rock pretty good. The music is often colorful and has very nice texture. Despite the digital synth (and occasional use of digital brass which I hate) the band gets some really cool sounds that, while not as fat as analog, are quite weighty. Part of the reason I like Envol Triangles better is the original drummer who I felt was a more engaging player. His style contributed greatly to the sound, making the album much more involving. There is also flute which contributes greatly to the texture. A new drummer and no flautist on Les Saisons Marines tends to make the album somewhat less exciting for me. I've heard one track from La Source which, to me, showed the band leaning toward a slightly more accessible or commercial sound. I give a high recommendation to Envol Triangles and Les Saisons Marines and suggest you move forward from there.
For those unfamiliar with the French band Minimum Vital Au Cercle De Pierre is an excellent introduction to the band's music. Recorded live in concert in 1997, it contains nine songs which cover the band's musical development from their first release Envol Triangle in 1985 all the way to their 1997 studio album Espírit D'Amor. Earlier songs build on stylish if non-emphasised interplay between guitar and typically expansive keyboards, and show influences ranging from Hispanic to Mediaeval. The later material is dominated by strong male and female vocals, highly rhythmic - almost danceable - and more straightforward. Actually some of it is more or less well-crafted pop music with prog-styled keyboard work, still very compelling in its own way. The only problem here is the drumming, which is solid to the fault, lacking the vibrancy and wildness that the non-European elements in the music crave (compare this to Peter Gabriel's fusion of European pop and non-European rhythms). A previously unreleased studio track "La Dernier Appel de la Guerre" is included, though this is a bit loose, jam-oriented instrumental stylistically somewhere between the old and the new material. The enhanced CD also offers a nice bonus in the form of a multimedia section which has four concert video clips, two more audio tracks and the band biography in French and English. It serves as a nice sum-up Minimum Vital, as the band's leaders Thierry and Jean-Luc Payssan would subsequently reinvent it as the scaled-down Vital Duo project. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Vital Duo]

Click here for Minimum Vital & Vital Duo's web site

Mink Deville [USA]

Mike Deville (77), Cabretta (77), Return to Magenta (78), Le Chat Bleu (80), Coup De Grace (82)

Sort of a seventies basic retro-rock and roll band led by Willy DeVille. Was a good anecdode to the regular snarly punk nonsense that pervaded the latter half of that decade. Very good and very fun stuff, but nothing I'd consider particularly progressive or enlightened.

Mink, Ben [Canada]
Updated 11/20/01

Foreign Exchange (80)
Mink was the violinist/mandolinist with the Canadian trio FM. His solo album features all the members of that band, plus other guest musicians, in a rock- fusion violin driven smorgasbord of different musical styles, with classical and Cajun being most prominent. Anyway, this is all instrumental, and a very worthwhile find if you can track it down.
This album is purely instrumental, and was made while Ben Mink was still a member of FM. However, this does NOT sound like an FM album! There is a multitude of styles employed, including rock, classical, and especially traditional Celtic music. If I have to compare, I am strongly reminded of Steve Morse's more Celtic-inspired tunes (circa the High Tension Wires album from 1989). In fact, I find it more satisfying than the albums put out by FM from this time period. Not particularly rocking, but overall it is an album of good music, if you want to expand your palate to more traditional styles. -- Simon Karatsoreas
[See FM]

Minotaurus [Germany]
Updated 9/24/01

Rain Over Thessalia (70)
Fly Away (78)
An obscure symphonic rock band from the second wave of German prog rock. Minotaurus are often lumped in with contemporary (and similar) groups like Madison Dyke, Streetmark, Pancake, etc. The album Fly Away dates from 1978 NOT 1971 [as was previously reported in the GEPR]. Rain Over Thessalia may be an earlier work by a fledgling Minotaurus. Fly Away is, in fact, a lost classic of the genre. Dag Erik Asbjornsen in his great book of krautrock, "Cosmic Dreams At Play" certainly thinks so as well. Strange that the Freeman brothers in their excellent "Crack in the Cosmic Egg" give it a lacklustre rating. We're talking smooth, melodic symphonic rock with great combination of synth and organ, crisp "militaristic" percussion, a fresh dual guitar sound and a spacey vibe. The compositions are surprisingly good and hooky, sometimes recalling the finer moments of groups like Eloy or Jane. (The Eloy influence is particularly apparent). Peter Scheu (also the drummer) has a very agreeable voice which definitely adds to the appeal. Tracks like "Your Dream", "Lonely Seas" and the long, Floyd-like "Fly Away" are immediately seductive. The group may appear to be more "song based" than the usual symphonic rocker. For a self-produced, privately pressed band, the musicianship and sound are of a high quality. Aside from one throwaway "new wave" style track, this is top drawer German symphonic prog rock. I'd especially recommend this to fans of Eloy, and Neuschwanstein. Not everybody will embrace it with the same enthusiasm (it's hardly INNOVATIVE music, for example), but it really is amazingly good for an almost unknown band. The CD reissue is on the small and obscure Lost Pipe Dreams label. The original LP is quite rare. Definitely deserving of a wider audience. -- Chris Gerbig

Mirage [UK]

Live (94)

A Camel/Caravan hybrid with Peter Bardens, Andy Ward, Dave Sinclair, Pye and Jimmy Hastings and others.

Miranda Sex Garden [UK]
Updated 11/27/01

Madra (91)
Iris (92)
Suspiria (93)
Fairytales of Slavery (94)
Carnival of Souls (00)
Miranda Sex Garden 2000 line-up - Katharine Blake (lead vocals), Trevor Sharpe (drums), Ben Golomstock (guitar), Teresa Casella (bass), Mike Servent (keyboards) and Barney Hollington (violin)

Miranda Sex Garden are a relatively new all female (well, apart from the odd session musicians on Iris) band. Madra their first album is an album of 17th century madrigals set to some music, but the harmonies are mostly vocal. An enjoyable uplifting album, but the second album Iris is even better. The tracks are very ethereal, but have menacing undertones. The vocal harmonies are ever present. Fear, on Iris, is particulary good. They are one of those bands whose music is hard to describe because there are no similar bands to compare it to. It is sort of classical meets progressive meets general strangeness.

No, that's not a really bad picture up there. Miranda Sex Garden was an all-girl band in 1991 for the Madra album when the band consisted of Katharine Blake, Jocelyn West and Kelly McCusker singing madrigals. But the "odd session musicians" on Iris referred to above ended up staying with the band, these were Ben Golomstock and Trevor Sharpe. The band had broken up and gone their own separate ways in 1995, and hadn't put out an album in about 6 years. But they have recently regrouped for 2000's Carnival of Souls. This was released on a new label, SugarDaddy, co-founded by Katharine Blake (click here for a picture of her performing on Halloween 1997 semi-topless.) -- Fred Trafton
Click here for the Miranda Sex Garden web site (dead as of 11/27/01, supposedly temporarily)
Click here for a fan site that still seems to be working
Click here for an interview in Muse magazine
Click here for Sugardaddy records web site (dead as of 11/27/01, supposedly temporarily)

Miriodor [Canada]
Updated 7/19/03

Rencontres (86)
Tot Ou Tard (88?)
Miriodor (88)
Third Warning (91)
Jongleries Élastiques (95)
Rencontres (98, re-issue on CD with bonus tracks)
Mekano (01)
Miriodor - in concert at the Conduit, NEARFest 2003 pre-show in Trenton, New Jersey. Bernard Falaise (guitars, fretless bass), Nicolas Masino (bass, digital piano, keyboards), Rémi Leclerc (drums, percussions, sampler), Marie-Chantal Leclair (saxophones), Marie-Soleil Bélanger (violin), Pascal Globensky (digital piano, synthesizers). Blame for this photo rests with Fred Trafton

Miriodor combine equal parts jazz, progressive rock and chamber music into a powerful sound that may remind of better known artists like Univers Zero or Art Zoyd, full of fire and eclecticism, but a bit more heavy on the melodic end. From Montreal, Miriodor started out as a six piece in the early 80's - their first album Rencontres released independently in 1986 featured flute, clarinet, violins, saxes, bass, guitars, piano, synthesizer and drums, for a very full sound of intense depth, and to date stands as their best effort. A couple of years later, a second cassette-only release Tot Ou Tard was released, which showed evidence of the band's shrinking headcount, yet still offered an incredible level of originality and very advanced compositional ideas. By their third release Miriodor, the first for Cuneiform, they were down to a trio of saxes, piano and drums, with all three doing some work on synthesizers. As might be expected, the band took on a more lean sound, steeped in technology, while the compositions became less extended, more direct and to-the-point (note: the CD reissue of Miriodor contains about 1/2 of the Tot Ou Tard cassette-only release as bonus material). Their most recent release Third Warning from 1991 builds upon the previous release in the same general style.

If you can deal with the progressively RIO bent of the music, Miriodor would be an excellent addition to your collection. Someone described them to me as "Univers Zero in a good mood.." Lacking a better description, I'll reuse that one. If you like the instrumental complexity and power of UZ, coupled with that band's lack of any mainstream influence, chances are you'll find Third Warning to your taste. And even if you're a novice to the RIO sound and are looking for a place to start, Miriodor is probably the best place. They combine musical prowess and creativity with a certain amount of accessibility. While not lacking the dissonance of Henry Cow or Magma, they serve it up in smaller doses. A three piece, Miriodor consists of Pascal Globensky on piano, Sabin Hudon on Sax, and Remi Leclerc on percussion. All three double on synths. Leclerc drives home the UZ comparisons with his Denis-esque classically influenced percussives. The others weave intricate melodies and counterpoint. For a threesome their sound is remarkably full - lots going on. While no individual instrument is doing blistering solos, they will impress you with mature, complex writing. Like most of my favorite bands, the emphasis is on the writing rather than the playing. The result is a tightly composed 45 minutes of excellent progressive music. I highly recommend this new Canadian band to anyone with an ear for experimentation.
Jongleries is the third and IMHO best CD-release by the Canadian band. For Jongleries they incorporated a fourth member, Bernard Falaise on guitar, mandolin, percussion and bass (and synth of course). The overall sound of Miriodor did not change to much since Third Warning, but Falaise's guitar and bass are certainly a great and remarkable addition (finally there is a "real" bass). As there are also some more players featured on Jongleries (violin, cello, thrombone, trumpet and flute), moving the band in a more ensemble-like direction, one could say that Miriodor developed their concept with this recording to perfection. I like Third Warning, but Jongleries is so much better! Very dense and varied music, still somehow reminding of Univers Zero or other RIO bands, but very original and played with great perfection and an incredible dynamic. This more than 60 minutes of music are certainly one of the best efforts of "contemporary" progressive rock put out in the 9ties. Rencontres features recordings from 1984-86 with the original Miriodor band that had many more members (flute, clarinet, violins, saxes, bass, guitars, piano, synthesizer and drums). -- Achim Breiling
I got to see Miriodor live at the NEARfest 2003 pre-show at a little club called the Conduit in Trenton, New Jersey. They were excellent, reminding me very much of Univers Zero, but perhaps with more of a jazzy bent and less "classical", and certainly more fun and less "dark". All the musicians were outstanding, but particularly the two women Marie-Chantal Leclair (saxophones) and Marie-Soleil Bélanger (violin) made their set something special. It's hard to imagine that anyone could go from a classical sound to jazz fusion to screeches, squeeks and scratches and make it all sound musical. Several times I wanted to ask Bélanger, "What would your violin teacher say if they could hear you playing like this?". I would hope they'd be proud, since this was a spectacular performance by all.

As a personal side note, I brought my wife to NEARfest this year, and I was afraid she would hate Miriodor, since it's well known that "women hate RIO". On the contrary, she loved them, and has become a huge fan. So have I. Too bad I missed their performance at the 2002 NEARfest, where they were one of the regular acts, and according to many, one of the "surprise hits" of the fest. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Miriodor's web site

Mirkwood [UK]

Mirkwood (73)

Ultra-rare private-label prog.

Mirror [Netherlands]

Daybreak (78)

A somewhat chamaeleonic album. It opens with a bright organ riff reminding of Yes' "Yours is no disgrace," but soon transforms into a long, spacy guitar solo a la Pink Floyd. The rest of the album is mainly instrumental, shifting seamlessly between the symphonic and the spacy. Singing keyboardist Paula Mennen has a wee little voice. On the slightly poppy short tune "Dear Boy," the effect is similar to a French pop chanteuse like Françoise Hardy. The use of woodwinds, oboe in particular, lends an unique quality to this album. One drawback is that the homemade sound sometimes shows through, primarily in the ticky-tacky keyboard equipment used like the Farfisa combo organ used on the balance of the album. Otherwise, a rarity worth keeping an eye out for. -- Mike Ohman

[See Lethe]

Mirthrandir [USA]

For You the Old Women (75)

American group from the 70's, their reissue For You The Old Women may remind of Gentle Giant at times, Focus at others, maybe even old Yes. The music is magically complex in a busy sort of way, with colorful multiple-melodies that compliment one another, lots of stop-and-go, rhythm changes, pyrotechnics... This is an album that grows on you with each repeated listening.

Mirthrandir hailed from New Jersey, and originally recorded this in 1975. The music on For You The Old Women is slightly "heavier" than on previous Syn-phonic releases, and the band that is the closest comparison is, in my opinion, Focus. Led by keyboards and guitar, the compositions are all very much in the traditional "prog" style, with alternating moods, shifting time changes, and competent vocals that remind of Derek Shulman of Gentle Giant at times. The music strikes me as being quite similar in style to that on that long-lost masterpiece by England, Garden Shed, for those of you who are familiar with that. As with recent Syn-phonic releases, the insert is lavish, featuring photographs from the band's days on stage and lyrics.

Mirthrandir are proof that the USA was capable of turning out high quality progressive rock in the 1970's. Like all good prog bands they take their influences and combine them into a unique and original sound rather than wearing them on their sleeves. In Mirthrandir, I hear traces of Gentle Giant and Yes, maybe a little Jan Akkerman and Steve Hackett in the guitar player. At no place do I hear a copy-cat or wannabe. I hear quality music from a quality band. Accolades to Syn-phonic for this release.

Syn-phonic has done it again. I've got to hand it to Greg Walker for his ability to dig up the most obscure US prog bands that hardly *anyone* has ever heard of. Mirthrandir recorded in the early to mid seventies in the Northeast US but never got a release out the door on a major label. For You the Old Women, consisting mainly of live studio recording with minimal overdubs, was released last month. The lengthy liner notes (which is always a plus with Syn-phonic releases) discuss the bands approach to music and their quest for perfectionism. Their goal was to produce a full-orchestra rock sound with a six-piece band. Often they would argue for weeks over the composition of just a few seconds of music. And what was the result? Mirthrandir produced a full-bodied, lush symphonic album, with a fair amount of interlocking rhythms. Full of complexities, I found myself unable to swallow most of it with just a couple of listens. With each instrument buried under several others it is hard to take apart to see what each is doing and the overall feel you just is a fast, chaotic business. They have a distinctly American approach, that is reminiscent of other obscure US groups such as Lift and Cathedral (both on Syn-phonic). What I'm referring to is a style of hard-driving Yes/Genesis/ELP derivative sound, but with enough uniqueness to eliminate them from clone status (though one could argue that Cathedral sounds a lot like Yes). My only caveat so far is occasional harsh screaming by the vocalist and that the overall production quality could have been better. But considering that most of it was "live" and that the master tapes have been sitting around for 18 years, it could be a lot worse. With only a few listens under my belt I think this could be a winner, though it's hard to tell. I felt the same about Lift when I first heard them, but now they sit on my shelf for longer and longer between listens. If you like your music upbeat and intricate, check 'em out.

Mirthrandir was an obscure progressive band from New Jersey formed in 1973 during the heyday of Yes. Originally released in 1976, Syn-Phonic remixed For You the Old Women and released it on CD in 1992. Mirthrandir was Robert Arace (drums), James Miller (bass and flute), Simon Garrett (keyboards), John Vislocky III (vocals and trumpet), Richard Excellente (guitar), and Alexander Romanelli (guitar). This album has a dated sound to it. Mirthrandir only flirted with progressive music ending up sounding like a Styx clone band, the result being mediocre music. Mirthrandir were at their best during the instrumental breaks from Vislocky's annoying falsetto. However, much of For You the Old Women suffers from uncoordinated instrumentation. Normally as bands start to record and mature they learn how to make economic use of the sonic space. "Light of the Candle" is the only song on the album that demonstrates this ability. I think that with more practice and guidance Mirthrandir could have developed in to a decent band. Unfortunately they broke up before recording another album. Being the uneven and immature release that For You the Old Women is, it is best to avoid it and ponder why Syn-Phonic chose to reissue it on CD.

Misin, Andrei [Russia]
Updated 3/5/05

Stranger (89)
... others
Unusual electronic rock and prog ballads.

Missing Link [Germany]
Updated 6/6/07

Nevergreen! (72)
Missing Link were from Munich, and is not to be confused with the more modern (not prog) band by the same name from Canada or the electronica group Missing Links. They released their only LP Nevergreen! in 1972. They also released a single in 1973. Their keyboardist Dieter Miekautsch webt on to join Embryo. They are said to be jazz-rock in style, with an overlay of '70's krautrock strangeness.

A bootleg CD of the album was released on the Living In The Past label in 2000, but now Garden of Delights has re-released a legal edition which also includes the A side of the single as a bonus track (the B side was already on the album). See link below to order the new CD release. -- Fred Trafton

[See Embryo]

Click here to order Nevergreen! from Garden of Delights

Missing Persons [USA]
Updated 1/9/06

Spring Session M (82)
Rhyme and Reason (84)
Color in your Life (86)
Best of Missing Persons (87, Compilation)
Walking in L.A. (88, Compilation)
Lost Tracks (02, Live)
... more compilations
A real good pop-rock band, slightly prog, very commercial. Terry Bozzio's drumming prowess doesn't really show, as he's basically kicking back and playing simple, tasteful rock beats. The musicians in this band are all very good though (but I don't really like Dale Bozzio's voice).
A couple guys from one of Zappa's bands. Terry Bozzio is a great drummer, but he never stretches out here. His sister, Dale, has an OK voice, but not great. They were pretty much just a pop group, with the posible exception of the all too short "US Drag" on Spring Session M.
I noticed that one person's comment for Missing Persons refers to Dale Bozzio as Terry Bozzio's sister. That is incorrect. They were husband and wife. -- Armel Patanian
[See UK | Zappa, Frank]

Missus Beastly [Germany]

Nara Asst Insence (70, aka Missus Beastly?), Missus Beastly (74), Dr. Aftershave and the Mixed Pickles (76), Spaceguerilla (78)

German jazzrock/fusion band. The first one was a private pressing and featured bluesrock (a very rare collectors item, but musically uninteresting). The other three are quite good and the music is much the same like Embryo's mid-'70s stuff (fusion with strong percussion). Indeed they were tightly linked to Embryo and they shared several band members. Try Dr. Aftershave..., which is probably their best. -- Achim Breiling

[See Embryo]

Mist Season [Finland]
Updated 6/13/11

Mist Season (04)
Woodlands (06)
Reflections (11)
Mist Season (2006) - Timo Kajamies (keyboards), Tommi Varjola (guitar), Kimmo Pörsti (drums,percussion), Keijo Hakala (bass), Jukka Pitkänen (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Kari Rantakallio (sax, WX5)

Original Entry 12/13/06:
Mist Season's first self-titled album lies between the fusion stylings of Weather Report, Pat Metheny or Zappa's Grand Wazoo era on the one hand and the easy-listening "smooth jazz" of Kenny G and the like (I call them "Weather Channel Jazz" bands) on the other. The band members for Mist Season were a quintet of Finnish musicians composed of Keijo Hakala (bass), Kimmo Pörsti (drums), Tommi Varjola (guitar), Timo Kajamies (keyboards) and Kari Rantakallio (sax). On their first album, they stick pretty much to this line-up and these instruments, with Timo Kajamies playing mostly piano. Even when they use electric instruments, the overall feel is very organic and "acoustic" sounding. To be honest, this album leans a bit too far in the "smooth jazz" direction on this axis for me, though the musicianship is superb and there are excursions into the proggier end of the spectrum. Actually, Pat Metheny strikes me pretty much the same way ...

However, for their second album, Woodlands, they've made several changes to strengthen themselves, at least for my musical tastes. Firstly, they've added Jukka Pitkänen playing brass instruments to the main line-up, expanding them to a sextet. Secondly, the palette of instruments has been increased due to band members' trying their hand at other instruments on some tracks (including Pörsti playing organ, Varjola playing sitar and Kajamies playing Rhodes ) and also a large number of guest musicians playing everything from accordian to tablas to synthesizers. Musically, the compositions feel more "rock" and less "jazz", by which I'm saying the "smooth" jazz has become a little more "rocky". Which suits me just fine! At this point it's easy to compare Mist Season to Weather Report or Frogg Café with only a small dose of "smooth jazz" rather than the other way around. As an added bonus, the recording seems crisper on this album as well. If I had to say something bad about the album, it would be that some of the sax and trumpet solos sound a bit on the tentative side, but even this is only occasionally, and it doesn't really detract from the overall album much. If Mist Season is a "B", then Woodlands is at least an "A-minus", with room to improve on the next album.

One other thing for people who care about such things ... both CD's include a lavish (thick!) insert full of really cool photography. Mostly nature photography, with some architectural photos as well. Photos and cover art are by Finnish photographer Esko Tuovinen. These really add class to these albums. The fact that I bother to mention them here means they're really something special.

Bottom line is that both albums are a worthwhile listen, with two warnings: number one is that for all their talk about being "progressive" on their web site, I would think their music would appeal to jazz fans more than prog fans (at least those that think Yes, Genesis or ELP are what the genre is all about), though there's certainly some crossover. Secondly, I've only listened to each album once, and I could definitely believe that repeated listenings will reveal charms I didn't notice the first time. If so, I'll let you know later. In the meantime, an easy recommendation for both albums, though I like Woodlands more. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Mist Season's web site
Click here to order Mist Season CD's from CD Baby

Mistral [USA]
Updated 6/13/11

Fortunes of War (82, Cassette)
Fortunes of War (09, CD)
Mistral - (Top row) Doug Day (percussion), Bob Goss (bass, bass pedals), Alan Radovanovich (guitar), Kent Cantwell (keyboards, bass and percussion). (Bottom) Eric Maurstad (vocals, flute and percussion)

Original Entry 4/1/07:
Mistral is a band dear to my heart. Why? Because of their music? Their long-lost release is very good, but that's not why. It's because they were trying to play progressive rock in the early '80's when absolutely nobody wanted to listen to it, then vanished with only a cassette release to mark their passing. That's the same story as the prog band I was in at about the same time. So seeing them release their long-lost cassette on CD in the new millenium makes me think that maybe I should dust off those old tapes and do the same thing for my old band. But enough about me ...

Mistral was five guys with their own vision of what prog should sound like in the '80's. It included elements of '70's prog, especially Jethro Tull, but also used "modern" (for the '80's) keyboards like string ensembles and added some of the symphonic Arena/Pomp Rock sensibilities of bands like Styx. Hey, don't take that as a bad thing ... Styx put out a couple of killer albums like The Grand Illusion before degenerating into crap like "Domo Abrigato Mr. Roboto". Mistral's Fortunes of War takes on only the best of that type of sound, with lots of complexity, polyrhythms and symphonism from keyboardist Kent Cantwell and the Ian Anderson-like vocals and flute work of Eric Maurstad going for them as well. They describe guitarist Brad Foutch as a "Fripp / Eno type of guitarist", but he only plays acoustic guitar on the first track of Fortunes of War. The primary guitarist for the album was Alan Radovanovich, and I think this is where most of the Arena Rock sound comes from. Overall, I'd have to say "this is a pretty good album".

I only limit it to "pretty good" because of the sound quality, not the music. The CDR I have was mastered from one of those 1982 cassettes. But now the band has (sort of) reformed, and they're in the process of remastering those old recordings onto a more pristine CD quality version of Fortunes of War. I've no doubt that when this is released, my assessment will go from "pretty good" to "really good". I'll let you know when that happens. Like many homebrew projects, the release date for the remastered CD has slipped several times now, but it is in the works and will hopefully happen soon. Or, keep tabs on their progress for yourself by visiting their web site, linked below. -- Fred Trafton

Update 6/13/11:
Mistral's remastering didn't go so well. Apparently the original tapes were destroyed in the process of doing the remaster. So, the band did the only thing they could ... they used one of their cassettes, cleaned up the sound the best they could, and used this as a new master for a CD, available from Syn-Phonic. I haven't heard it, so I can't speak to the quality improvement.

For what it's worth, I sympathize. I wouldn't be surprised to find the old tapes from my band I want to remaster have met the same fate ... reel-to-reel masters just don't last forever. Someday I'll have the guts to find out. I hope it's not too late. -- Fred Trafton

Click here for Mistral's web site
Click here to order Fortunes of War from Syn-Phonic

Mr. Albert Show [Netherlands]

Mr. Albert Show (71), Warm Motor (71)

Hard rock lineup plus sax. Comparison would be Colosseum or Blodwyn Pig. Mostly lengthy tracks with guitar and sax solos. They are very heavy from time to time. Good stuff. -- Achim Breiling

Mr. Bungle [USA]
Updated 7/8/06

Mr. Bungle (91)
Disco Volante (95)
California (99)
Mr. Bungle in 1999 - (Not in photo order) Mike Patton (Vocals), Trevor Dunn (Bass), Trey Spruance (Guitar), Danny Heifetz (Drums) and Clinton "Bär" McKinnon (Tenor Sax).

Mr. Bungle are perhaps best described as RIO, amongst the most bizarre and unclassifiable bands of the nineties and surely not for the faint of heart. Their music has consistently fused together all manner of musical styles with a twisted, offbeat sense of humour and some truly bizarre instrumental antics, unsurprisingly bringing plenty comparisons with Frank Zappa. They're probably most famous because of singer Mike Patton's other band Faith No More, although they seem to have since escaped that niche and become a recognised group in their own right. For their first two albums the band consisted of Mike Patton (Vocals), Trevor Dunn (Bass), Trey Spruance (Guitar), Danny Heifetz (Drums), Theo Lengyel (Alto Sax) and Clinton "Bär" McKinnon (Tenor Sax). Theo left the band (because of "artistic differences") before their third album California however. All the members of the band are able to play a variety of instruments besides their main ones.

Okay, history first: Mr. Bungle, named after a character in a children's educational film, were formed in high school in 1985 and have their roots in the Californian thrash metal scene. Unusually for a metal band, Mr. Bungle had a horn section. The story goes that they hatched a plan to gain an audience by playing anywhere they could book a gig and changing their sound and material to suit. So far, so good. What happened, however, was that they found themselves losing track of what they should be rehearsing for any given gig, which forced the band to rely increasingly on improvisation and hoping for the best.

Those who wish to track the band's development can keep their eye open for downloads of a 1985 school talent show performance (including the band's demolitions of "Macho Man", "Hey Hey We're The Monkees" and "Run DMC's "King Of Rock"). Then there's the four demos: "The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny", "Bowel Of Chiley" [sic], "Goddamit I Love America!" and "OU818". Right from the beginning, the band has a penchant for peculiar instruments ("Raging Wrath ..." has credits for kazoo, jew's harp and video games), matched by the increasingly warped and eclectic songs that they apply them to.

In 1989, the 19-year-old Patton joined Faith No More as their vocalist. This is important since it was instrumental in Mr. Bungle's joining Warner Brothers, Faith's record label, soon followed by their debut album Mr. Bungle.

Mr. Bungle is an inventive, explosive but unfocused affair, with John Zorn providing production and guest horn on "Love Is A Fist". Musically, the band is based in heavy metal, but their hurtles through all manner of styles - metal, rumba, disco, carnival music, hip-hop, jazz, and so on - often two or three per song. The tracks are all linked together by various bits and pieces of found sound and bizarre audio-skits (witness the, ah, relief that precedes "Squeeze Me Macaroni"). The downside to all this is that the band, maybe over-excited to be on a major label, tend to suffer some terrible bouts of self-indulgence. The end of "Egg" is a tedious and damn-near inaudible recording of Mike, Trey and Bär jumping a train, which lasts for some three minutes. Another song, "Stubb-A-Dub" is dragged out far beyond its shelf-life as the band play it through twice in different styles. Despite these imperfections though, the album has its share of shining diamonds, including the John Travolta-baiting opener "Quote Unquote", or the epic "Carousel".

For their second album, Disco Volante, the rambling sprawl of Mr. Bungle is refined into a surrealist tour de force. A dark, powerful piece of work, pushing the genre-hopping even further whilst somehow remaining cohesive. The tracks are interspersed with fragments of speech and instrumental scrapping straight out of Frank Zappa's Uncle Meat. Disco Volante opens with the pounding, sludgy death metal of "Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead", before leading into the mutant Hammond-jazz of "Chemical Marriage". The freak-out nightmare of "Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz" (not for nothing does Chris Cutler cite Patton as one of the few vocalists in rock to push the envelope) is followed by the sweeping, almost classical suite of "The Bends", and of course there is the closing track "Merry Go Bye Bye", which effortlessly brings together passages of jaunty pop music, brutalising thrash and an almost hymn-like ending. Even more than Mr. Bungle, this record defies description.

For their third album, '99's California, the band has managed to fuse its myriad influences into one fairly organic whole. Where Mr. Bungle and Disco Volante leap from one sound to the next, here the music slides effortlessly between different textures and styles, all fused into the most swinging slice of heavy metal you'll hear in a long while. Disturbed pastiches of lounge-esque/easy-listening musical styles, disorienting bursts of noise and various snippets of found sounds are all thrown into the mix to underpin Mr. Bungle's twisted mindset, introduced nicely by the opener, "Sweet Charity". Other songs defy this reviewer's knowledge of mainland-European folk genres to describe them, but are easily amongst the most fascinating music of their time.

As of now (early '04) it seems Mr. Bungle are apparently no more. Mike has gone on record in interviews to say that he doesn't think the band will get round to doing a fourth album since the members are scattered all over the show in an endless parade of other bands and side projects (it seems to be tradition that anyone in Mr. Bungle has to have at least one other band, preferably two or three). -- Edward Martland

[See Secret Chiefs 3]

Click here for a Mr. Bungle web site

Mr. Doctor [Slovenia]
Updated 3/5/05

Mark of the Beast (87)
Solo release by the lead singer and mastermind behind Devil Doll.
Sometimes listed as the first Devil Doll album, this has never been released commercially (supposedly only one copy exists). -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Devil Doll]

Mr. Sirius [Japan]
Updated 3/5/05

Eternal Jealosy (86, EP)
Barren Dream (86)
Dirge (90)
Crystal Voyage (90, Compilation of pre-Mr. Sirius work as Sirius)
Incredible Tour (94, Recorded 89-91)
Mr. Sirius' Barren Dream is a rather hard album to describe though it is quite wonderful and unique. With styles covering classical, jazz, Canterbury and even a tad of Emersonian synth you can see why. The most dominant sound, I'd say, is very soft and pastoral with a classical feel. This mood is created with piano, soft acoustic guitar and flute. Add to this a female singer (singing sometimes in English, sometimes in Japanese) with a lovely clear voice (reminiscent of Annie Haslam) and you have a very lush sound without sounding sickly sweet. For some sections though, they get the synth, organ and Mellotron going to create a more defined progressive sound that is very jazzy with more than occasional nods to the Canterbury sound. There is also occasional guitar, drums and even accordian. Because the sound is so mellow, this is an album you can enjoy late at night to relax or with your non-prog listening significant other. As long as you don't need your prog hard and heavy, and you like a strong classical feel then you will really go for this album.
Mr. Sirius is multi-instrumentalist Kazuhiro Miyatake, with female vocalist Hiroko Nagai (later of Pageant) and drummer Chihiro Fujioka, with a supporting cast of all stars. This was the lineup on his best known LP (now out on CD) Barren Dream, but there are several other albums as well, including a much newer Crystal Voyage - Anthology with a different lineup. On Barren Dream the sound ranges from pastoral to symphonic to jazzier stylings. Most of Hiroko's vocals are in English. IMO, Crystal Voyage is not as impressive.
[See Pageant | Pazzo Fanfano di Musica]

Mr. So and So [UK]
Updated 6/7/11

Paraphenelia (92)
Compendium (95)
The Overlap (98)
Sugarstealer (09)
Mr. So and So (2009) - (not in photo order) Shaun McGowan (vocals, bass), Dave Foster (guitar, vocals), Charlotte Evans (vocals, guitar), Stuart Browne (drums, percussion) and Andy Rigler (keyboards, vocals)

Mr. So and So is a four piece neo-prog band originating in St. Helens in Merseyside, UK. The band is fronted by a very capable vocalist/6-string bassist named Shaun McGowan. This talented fellow also designed the cover art for the band's debut album, 1992's Paraphenelia. Mr. So and So is best described as an energetic prog rock band similiar in nature to It Bites and Big Big Train. Vocal harmonies are important to the band as are powerful guitar and bass playing. This is one of the few prog bands around where bass is one of the prominent instruments. My only regret is the "so so" quality of the production on the band's two albums [Paraphenalia and Compendium - Ed.]. But this is a minor point, for those looking for a band placing a premium on strong songwriting and an energetic, modern sound this is the one.

Paraphenelia, on Pagan Records, contains the insanely catchy opener "So Near, So Far" and the beautiful ballad "Again." The emphasis is on strong songwriting and changing moods reflected in the interplay between the bass and guitar. Guitarist Dave Foster moves effortlessly from Hackett-esque arpeggios to Rush-like power chords. Their second album, 1994's Compendium (on Cyclops Records) is even more developed than their first. This album offers energetic gems such as "Hobson The Traveller", the shimmering guitar backdrop to the intro of "Primrose Days", to the highly original use of a simple and melodic trumpet line in "Sixes and Sevens". -- Oliviero Ortolani

Update 6/7/11
"Throughout 1998/99 gigs became more sporadic due to financial commitments and jobs. In 2000 the decision was made to fold the band. From there on [band members joined other bands and] Mr. So & So was effectively dead."

"During 2005 Dave [Foster] was playing in a Sting tribute band with Shaun's girlfriend Nicola Jones (keyboards) and Dave and Shaun established contact again and they began writing together again. Shortly after reuniting, Charlotte also joined the writing sessions and the three decided to get the band back together again. Leon and Kieren were unavailable which forced a search for a new keyboard player and drummer. What is traditionally seen as a difficult task, finding two musicians to fit into an established line-up, the answer fell into the trio's lap, when a keyboard player Anthony Hindley who Shaun met in a music shop in Bolton, suggested he might be available. Anthony met Dave and Shaun at a rehearsal room in Wigan to go through some ideas it became obvious really quickly to both Dave and Shaun that this was the right man for the job (Anthony was already a fan of Mr. So & So having seen them on Marillion's Radiation tour which Mr. So & So supported for the Manchester Academy), and also he knew a drummer from Chester who fit the criteria the band were looking for. Stuart Browne met the now four piece a few weeks later and Mr. So & So existed again." -- from the Mr. So & So web site biography

[See Legend | The Wishing Tree]

Click here for Mr. So & So's web site
Click here for Mr. So & So's MySpace page