Marathon: Mark Kelly's Marathon (earMusic)
Mark Kelly, the erstwhile keyboardist of neo-progressive rock titans Marillion, has finally followed in the footsteps of current and former band mates by starting a solo project. Mark Kelly's Marathon is a somewhat different to his main band using a lot more ambient keyboard and big swathes of art rocking that reminds me of Peter Gabriel and Eric Serra's solo work. Ollie Smith helps this massively with his smoky Gabriel-like vocals as evokes the talking verses and big choruses on tracks such as the direct This Time one of three shorter songs on the record that's bookended but two colossal numbers. Kelly has worked on the lyrics to this album with Guy Vickers, together they've crafted a song about doomed Amelia Earhart and one about the strained relationship between Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke on 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Both of these clock in at 10+ minutes so behind his racks of keyboards Kelly needed an accomplished band behind him, he took Steve Rothery's advice about guitarist John Corey with good reason as his guitar playing is wonderfully expressive, linking up with Pete Wood. Speaking of Rothery he appears on the very Marillion-like Puppets. In the engine room Kelly has his nephew Conal on bass while taking the drumstool is former Touchstone man Henry Rodgers. Together they bring these vivid musical visions to life with expert performances that make this album sound very classic prog, not necessarily classic Marillion but those earlier albums by Genesis et al where prog was unapologetic and artistic. As a debut solo jaunt Mark Kelly's Marathon is a majestic record stemming from years of experience through a collection of virtuosic compositions, proper prog that although recorded separately in their own studios it's got a serious unison to it, showing that even though it has Mark Kelly's name it is a concerted band effort. 9/10
Attercopus: Last Utterance (Self Released)
The South Wales Stoner/Psych/Doom underground scene is full of bands who like a blunt burnt brightly before going up in smoke, many are never heard from again while some transition into hazy memory, or perhaps they become figments of a stimulant addled mind. Attercopus are one of those names from 'history' as the band put it they "faded away and disappeared beyond the veil", however before they did this they locked themselves into a studio in Swansea over the course of two days and thrashed out what was to be their debut full length. Due to the dissolution these recordings were lost to the mists of time but the pandemic has led to an archaeological expedition to find them, which bore fruit. So those original recordings have been played with, bringing to it some re-recording, mixing, editing and as they call them space noises to create the album they have named Last Utterance.
So what does Attercopus' final debut full length offer the listener? Well as I said in my Red Sun 2015 review of the band, they play a heavy riffing style of riff heavy hard rock, drenched in psychedelic reverb it's Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Hendrix and Hawkwind, all put into a melting pot and aimed towards skies. Yes the production is a little D.I.Y meaning that Martin Jones' drums, are a little bit trembly but when they are so fluid and powerful, on Chemical Pigs especially he's got driving power that shifts the track into very proggy territory. His expressive playing is an ideal base for the grooving, fuzzy basslines of Lloyd Stratford and the biting, equally fuzzy guitar riffs of Rob Harrison who apparently took the vocal slot begrudgingly, though I actually think he's got an ideal voice for this style of mind-bending music.
With Stratford the low end, it allows Harrison to let loose a little on his guitar but also bringing both flute and sax to the record the latter on the the wild, untamed Space Garden and the former taking a center stage in the wild final track Wasteland. A interdimensional feast of riffs from beginning to end, Last Utterance is a fitting eulogy to Attercopus' memory and hopefully it may lead to a rebirth for the band. 8/10
Kyros: Four Of Fear (White Star Records)
Kyros' Celexa Dreams was brilliant album and I said as much in my review of it. A vibrant mix of bristling electronica and pop-influenced prog rocking, it was one of those records that was truly unique sounding. On the back of that they toured the UK digitally giving themselves the exposure that any band needs in the face of a global pandemic. So to keep themselves in the public eye we have Four Of Fear a four track EP that brings some more of the bands musical amalgamation, veering between influences for a more experimental (if that's possible) release. Only really Fear Of Fear stays true to what featured on Celexa Dreams a poppy prog number, Ace's Middle meanwhile like Devin Townsend writing a video game theme with Haken before abandoning it to play some Rush, key a lot of quirky vocal passages and wild shifts in tone and time signatures. It's a bit of mind bender to open with but then I wouldn't expect anything else from this band.
As I said Fear Of Fear has keening 80's AOR drenched in heavy dancy synths, a little bit like if Yes' 90125 played by a synthwave act like Gunship. The dance-music factor is ramped up as we shift into ResetRewind a track that keeps those Yes influences, along with Muse but also adds a huge slab of dirty dubstep that vibrates through your speakers which will jar a lot of prog rock fans but really suits the song and the bands ideology. Finally this new dip into the world of Kyros brings us Stop Motion the thematic follow up to Celexa Dreams' first song In Motion, the band say that this song brings the cycle that started on that record to a close, doing so with a searing guitar solo and some industrial thunder. With this EP having a sense of finality, I'm eagerly awaiting where Kyros will go from here. 8/10
Honeybadger: Pleasure Delayer (Made Of Stone Recordings)
Another act from the overflowing Greek stoner scene, Pleasure Delayer is the debut album from the brilliantly named Honeybadger and like the animal they take their moniker from the riffs here are relentless in pursuit of getting you to nod your head in appreciation. Honeybadger take a huge amount of influence from countrymen Nightstalker, Clutch and also those Space Lord Mothers Monster Magnet. So expect big powerful riffs, soulful vocals and lots of psych flourishes for some real 'lose yourself' moments. Coming from the suburbs of Athens, the three men called Dimitris and one called Vaggelis that make up Honeybadger are influenced by the sprawling metropolis of Greece's capital city and have jammed out in the studio for a really organic feel. Tracks such as Through Hell is a proper live staple with a big chorus and open chords, while Crazy Ride brings that desert rock wooziness, mixed with a little bit of BLS' Bored To Tears it's That Feel which brings the Wyndorf space stoner. Pleasure Delayer doesn't do anything of the sort, it's instant groovy gratification from the first riff to the last. Put it on loud and get shaking those hips. 7/10