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Prog Round-up: October 2010

Album Review

Geoff Barton on new releases from Tinyfish, David Byron Band, Divided Multitude, The Royal Ghost and Natacha Atlas

Tinyfish: The Big Red Spark

Three years in the making, The Big Red Spark is a concept-album tour de force – and then some. The world’s smallest prog band (as Tinyfish like to style themselves) have forged an absolute monster, equal parts deeply involving and massively confusing. Based on a dream vocalist/guitarist Simon Godfrey once had, TBRS tells the tale of a mysterious machine created from the thoughts of mankind. It could be an euphemism for the Internet; it could be something else entirely. All we know for sure is that it's 'an engine of metal that moves like water'. See what we mean by confusing? All the familiar Tinyfish traits are here, but amped to the max. Jim Sanders' guitar sounds gigantic; the recurring themes reverberate with chilling precision; the spoken-word parts sound like they’ve been lifted from the script of Blade Runner. Or Brazil. Or Metropolis... even though it was a silent movie. See? That's the twisted effect Tinyfish have on you. We've never given a 9/10 rating in the prog column before, so here goes. (9/10) 

David Byron Band: On The Rocks

Away from the prog leanings of Uriah Heep, this 1981 album is a great showcase for their late frontman David Byron’s larger-than-life approach. It kicks off in fine style with Rebecca and Bad Girl, power-packed anthems both, before getting bogged down with the faux Freddie Mercuryisms of How Do You Sleep? Thankfully normal service is soon restored. (6/10) 

Divided Multitude: Guardian Angel

Queensrÿche sounding too slow, stodgy and boring for you these days? Then Norway’s Divided Multitude might just be your salvation. This is packed full of ultra-frantic, Helloween-tinged progressive metal, and singer Sindre Antonsen has the tonsils to rival Tate and Dickinson combined. Ridiculously overblown, for sure. But that’s just the way we like it. (7/10) 

The Royal Ghost: The Royal Ghost

This nine-track CD contains highlights from rock opera The Royal Ghost (the entire thing being 29 songs long). The story takes place in a castle where a ghost and a princess become friends – with predictably tragic consequences. If you like the idea of Barry (Eloise) Ryan performing a score written by Rick Wakeman, this could be right up your turret. (6/10) 

Natacha Atlas: Mounqaliba: In A State Of Reversal

Natacha Atlas was born in Belgium, but is of Middle Eastern descent; this bewitching release mixes classical music with Arabian poetry. If Enya had been born in Egypt, she’d probably sound like this. The album’s highlight is an idiosyncratic but strangely alluring version of Nick Drake’s River Man. (7/10)

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