Album Review: Yes – Mirror to the Sky

Band: Yes | Album: Mirror to the Sky | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2023

From: London, UK | Label: InsideOut Music


About a year-and-a-half after their dull-as-dirt twenty-second studio album, The Quest, Yes has returned with a new release. At times, I question whether or not this band really is “Yes,” though. They’re a bit like the Ship of Theseus at this point. Jon Anderson was booted from the band in 2008, following a severe asthma attack. Chris Squire was the last remaining of the original members in the band, and he passed away in 2015. Then last year, Alan White, the band’s drummer since 1973, also passed away. Steve Howe’s still with the band, though he did have a 16-year absence from the band from 1981-1997. Keyboardist Geoff Downes was briefly in Yes in the early ‘80s before returning in 2011. And Bassist Billy Sherwood was a longtime friend of Squire’s who has collaborated with the band since the mid-90s. My distaste for vocalist Jon Davison should be evident from my last Yes review.

Philosophical conundrums aside, I haven’t been shy about dragging big-name acts through the mud when they put out a bad record. The Quest was terrible, and I mentioned that I liked Heaven and Earth even less in that review. I’m not a fan of The Zealot Gene, and I gave RökFlöte a lukewarm rating. (And that RökFlöte review prompted someone to send me a downright apoplectic email full of typos and shoddy reasoning. It really was funny how bent out of shape that person got.) I’m both looking forward to and dreading my eventual Dream Theater Deep Dive; if you think I went hard on The Wall’s sophomoric storytelling, just wait ‘til I talk about The Astonishing!

I went into this record with low expectations. The members of Yes seem to have simply gotten kinda lame in their old age. I was not particularly impressed with the first single, and the fact that this is another of those stupid disc-and-a-half money-grab releases also didn’t do much to give me hope. Despite all that, I wound up being pleasantly surprised. Mirror to the Sky is Yes’s best album since Magnification, and I’m willing to unambiguously call this album good. Not great, but good.

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Album Review: Jethro Tull – RökFlöte

Band: Jethro Tull | Album: RökFlöte | Genre: Progressive rock, Hard rock | Year: 2023

From: Luton, UK | Label: InsideOut Music


A little over a year after their unimpressive return on The Zealot Gene, Jethro Tull is back with another record, RökFlöte. For this record, Ian Anderson stated he drew inspiration from Norse mythology, and the word “Ragnarök” is where he got the idea for this album’s title. Each of the twelve songs on this album is based off a character or concept from Norse mythology.

Going into this, I did my best to keep an open mind. Yes, I’d found The Zealot Gene unnecessary, disappointing, and soulless; but Tull has bounced back from bad records before! Minstrel in the Gallery followed the unfocused hodgepodge of WarChild, and Roots to Branches came after the tepid blues rock of Catfish Rising (and their middling ‘80s hard rock). Martin Barre continues to be absent from the band, so I tried to calibrate my expectations for the guitarwork accordingly.

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Album Review: Plank – Future of the Sea

Band: Plank | Album: Future of the Sea | Genre: Progressive rock, Math rock | Year: 2023

From: Todmorden, UK | Label: Golden Lion Sounds

For fans of: The Physics House Band, Kylver


After nearly a decade of silence, British math/progressive rock band Plank (alternately stylized as Plank! on Spotify) returns with a new record. Their last release was 2014’s Hivemind, an insect-themed album with some absolutely killer tracks on it. “Grasshoppers from Mars” demonstrated the band’s ability to be flashy yet catchy and melodic, and “Khepri” was a beautiful example of how to execute a build-up. 

Their new release, Future of the Sea follows in a similar sonic palette. This instrumental record is built around weird, complicated riffs, where both crunchy guitar and glimmering synths get their chance to shine.

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Album Review: Zopp – Dominion

Band: Zopp | Album: Dominion | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2023

From: Nottingham, UK | Label: Flat Circle Records

For fans of: Soft Machine, Diagonal, Caravan


I’ve discussed the Canterbury sound on this site a number of times. Its heyday–like much of progressive rock–was back in the early 1970s, but even then it was somewhat niche. Despite that, there are a few acts still keeping this sound alive, and Zopp is one of the best ones.

Zopp’s 2020 self-titled debut wound up being one of my top albums for the year, though I never reviewed it before my year-end best-of list. It wasn’t some late-in-the-year surprise for me; I just never got around to covering it. But I don’t want to have that be the case again. The two pre-release singles for Dominion had both been great, so I went into this record with pretty high hopes. On their Bandcamp, the band describes this album as being closer to Yes or Marillion than any Canterbury act, but I have to disagree. If I’m looking for good comparisons, I’m still going to cite Soft Machine, Gong, and (especially) Caravan.

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Odds & Ends: December 19, 2022

Band: Call Me Ishmael | Album: Cosmic Travellers | Genre: Progressive folk, English folk | Bandcamp

This is some pretty enjoyable prog-folk, with a very heavy emphasis on the folk part. I’m not an expert in the folk music of the British Isles, but when I think of “English folk music,” something not too far off from this pops into my mind. Mixed into that, though, are smart, inventive structures and melodies. And aside from a rather regrettable synth-brass tone on one track, the tonal choices are pleasant. This album does feature the eight-millionth version of “The Unquiet Grave,” though, and this band doesn’t bring anything new to the table there.

Score: 75/100

Artist: Paul Gunn | Album: The Ludwig Suite | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This is a lovely little EP. The music incorporates bits of jazz and classical music, and Gunn has a distinctive voice. I get echoes of acts like Gentle Giant, Bubu, and Magma throughout, and I appreciate that this release doesn’t try to do too much. It’s 15 minutes of thoughtful progressive rock that focuses on a few strong ideas. Most of this release is instrumental, but those cuts maintain a strong sense of purpose while weaving together diverse influences

Score: 81/100

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Odds & Ends: December 14, 2022

Band: Ahleuchatistas | Album: Expansion | Genre: Math rock, RIO | Bandcamp

Ahleuchatistas are something of an outlier when it comes to bands I like. I’m often not a fan of improv-heavy acts that sound like they’re constantly on the verge of falling apart, but this trio always manages to thread the needle of tight, complex riffs and wonky, off-kilter meters with loose improv. Expansion feels a bit more composed than some of their past work, and that pays dividends here. The riffs are weird and wild and wiry, and the songs have an odd, shambolic energy to them. This is a bizarre and rewarding album.

Score: 81/100

Band: Fren | Album: All the Pretty Days | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

Had I known Wiosna was a single off an upcoming album and not an EP, I wouldn’t have reviewed it. But alas! All the Pretty Days is Fren’s second full-length album. Much like their debut, it’s melodic and dramatic instrumental prog. The songs are engaging and attention grabbing, and despite their length, there is very little bloat here. This reminds me of Änglagård’s best work while also being distinct. Hints of jazz pop in from certain piano lines, giving flashes of Magma’s lighter moments.

Score: 78/100

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Odds & Ends: December 7, 2022

Band: Audio’m | Album: Godzilla | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This album consists of just one 43-minute, kaiju-sized song. Though it doesn’t have the city-destroying fury of kaiju-themed thrashers Oxygen Destroyer, this French septet’s newest release is quite strong. The music is often swirling and otherworldly, with the band’s two keyboardists weaving together complementary moldies and textures. Hints of jazz and Baroque music are sprinkled throughout this release, and that diversity of influences keeps this opus interesting.

Score: 77/100

Band: The Bronze Horsemen | Album: IV | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This is some solid, enjoyable progressive rock. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but rather than detracting, it adds a homespun charm to it. This allure is especially evident when considering the combination of certain folk and bluegrass elements. This band roots its sound in the 1970s, with particularly strong Camel flavors. While it’s not groundbreaking, there’s a lot of heart and creativity here, and it’s definitely worth your time.

Score: 79/100

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