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Astra, USA


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Astra - The Weirding. 2009 Rise Above (UK) CD+LP; 2009 Metal Blade
Astra - The Black Chord. 2012 Rise Above (UK) CD+LP; 2012 Metal Blade

In the world I choose to exist in - the byzantine progressive rock underground - bands like Astra might as well be Taylor Swift in terms of general recognition. These are albums that have close to 500 ratings and dozens of reviews on RYM for example - when the usual norm for my modern era collection is 8 ratings and one review, and that one review might be my own. So they hardly qualify for "Under the Radar", but yet musically they are a bulls-eye for the type of music I typically enjoy. As such, I've been wanting to feature them here for some time, and just hadn't gotten around to doing it.

For those that still haven't heard Astra - and I can't imagine anyone reading this that hasn't - then they can best be described as 1972 personified. They have absorbed the influences of the time, instrumentation, and recording techniques of a bygone era, and created their own personal vision of what that would sound like. So if you're an "all-in" kind of progressive rock fan, then these albums are can't miss propositions. For as great as The Weirding is, Astra took it a notch further with The Black Chord. The songwriting has improved, as well as the crispness of the playing itself. If all this sounds eerily familiar to another feature I wrote here on UTR last year, then you are perceptive indeed. Rise Above's first band to really accomplish this feat is Diagonal, and they too improved with their sophomore effort. Diagonal is more about the arcane UK progressive scene as promoted in 1971 by the Neon, Dawn, and Transatlantic labels. Whereas Astra is coming at this from the early King Crimson, VDGG, and Yes perspective. So from that viewpoint, Astra will feel more familiar to most modern listeners.

Of course when you obtain the kind of popularity that Astra has, especially on the coattails of the classic early 70s progressive rock bands that many adore and feel cannot be replicated, then you can expect a lot of negativity will find its way to them. I would just wave all that aside if you're a fan, and it least give these albums your full attention, and not try to be swayed too much. Personally I can't possibly hear enough albums that attempt to do what Astra has. This is miles beyond the superficial tries of many modern acts who are looking to achieve a similar conclusion. It takes far more than a retrospective view of another era (i.e. watching "That 70's Show" isn't going to cut it), and throw a Hammond and a Memotron (faux Mellotron) in there and hope for the best. One really has to be a student of the genre to achieve these kind of results. I can only tip my hat, and can't wait for any future releases.

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The ongoing HiPo list

Read about this the purpose and idea of this thread at the bottom of this post. Feel free to opine on any of these albums as you wish.

New additions (moved forward with this post)
Cosmic Triggers (Russia)

Karakorum (Germany)

Kungens Män (Sweden) This band many releases already, and 5 are durable mediums. Looks like a group to check out at least one of.

Professor Tiptop (Norway)
Weserbergland (Norway)


Prior entries that have yet to be purchased or heard
Cherry Five (Italy) Reformation album, so won't consider this against the 1975 album.

Consorzio Acqua Potabile - Coraggio e Mistero (Italy) New album with Alvaro Fella (Jumbo!) on vocals. Considering this HiPo because of the Fella presence

Fatal Fusion (Norway)

Il Fauno di Marmo (Italy)

Hadal Sherpa (Finland)

Jordsjo (Norway) OK - just a quick update that Jordsjo will have a CD out in the fall. Yaay!

Merry Go Round (Italy)

Mythic Sunship (Denmark)

The Winstons (Italy)

Witchwood  (Italy)

Wucan (Germany)

Prior entries that have been hear…

Anglagard, Sweden

News: According to the band's website from October 8th: "The band has gone into songwriting mode after several concerts in North America (which happened to include full renditions of "Hybris"). In related news, Jonas, Johan and Erik have apparently started a side project with Thomas Johnson playing some sort of progressive jazz music. In terms of website news, the recent DVD releases have finally been added to the discography." Great - add a distraction there. These guys are hilarious. Probably by 2024 we can expect a new album then...

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Location: Stockholm

Overview: Probably the foremost contemporary post 1990 band to capture and recreate all that was great about the early 1970s original progressive rock movement.

UMR notes

Omnia Opera, England

News: Omnia Opera are still kicking! They're actively looking for a new keyboard player, so it seems they're ready to get going again. They also have an offshoot band called 7Shades and they recently played with The Oroonies - yet another blast from the past. Both of these bands have old cassettes that are in dire need of reissue.

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Location: Kidderminster (SW of Birmingham)

Overview: Omnia Opera can best be described as a heavier and more in-yer-face variation of the classic UK festival space rock sound. More Hawkwind and less Gong that is to say. About the only band I can think of that rocks harder than Ozric Tentacles in this genre.

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Homunculus Res, Italy

News: It appears the new album from Homunculus Res will be coming in November, based on a comment back in August. So great news there. No title or cover as of yet, so I'll leave the second album up.

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Location: Palermo, Sicily

Overview: Homunculus Res is a tremendous new Canterbury styled band from Italy that have perfectly captured the spirit of another era. Brilliantly mixing melody and complexity, with a jazzy undertone.

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Secret Saucer, USA

News: Secret Saucer have just released their 7th album The Reset. It appears to be LP only at the current time (and released in Germany). I've lost track of Secret Saucer, as I haven't heard anything from them since Tri-Angle Waves in 2009.


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Location: The band usually just state that are from Ohio, but if I recall right they are from near Cleveland in the northeast part.

Overview: Secret Saucer could best be described as a space rock jam band. Similar to Oresund Space Collective and  others of its ilk.

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October Equus, Spain

News: There's talk of a new album, and in at least one post, it was discussed it might be without a rhythm section - a chamber type work. Nooo.... don't do it! Resist the temptation. :-) Permafrost, from 2013, remains the last album, and I never did get any notes down for it. I'm sure I will eventually.

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Location: Madrid

Overview: October Equus'first album was almost like a psychedelic Present (Belgium), a very interesting combination that I found highly appealing. With each subsequent release, October Equus ups the ante on complexity, while toning down the more jamming aspect of their sound.

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Nuova Era, Italy

News: Return to the Castle was released late last year, and has received mixed reviews. It would appear their controversial decision to move to English has divided the fan base.

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Location: Firenze/Florence

Overview: Probably more than any other band, Nuova Era can be credited with bringing back the classic early 70s Italian progressive rock sound... kicking and screaming into the 90s. The band has reformed in the 2010 decade, though strangely they've moved to English vocals, something that goes against the very core of the style. I haven't heard them yet, so can't say how successful the reformation has been.

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Quaterna Requiem, Brazil

News: Quaterna Réquiem are very active on the live front in their home country of Brazil. No word on a new album though.

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Location: Rio de Janeiro

Overview: Quaterna Réquiem were one of the first bands of the late 1980s/early 90s progressive rock renaissance to review the works of the Mediterranean bands such as Quella Vecchia Locanda and Gotic, rather than the standard English "Big 3" of Genesis, Yes, and ELP.

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Lumerians, USA

News: Lumerians are very active playing live and touring. There's talk of a new album, but nothing since Transmissions From Telos Vol III from 2014 (which came after IV...) - an album I haven't heard yet myself.
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Location: Oakland, California

Overview: Lumerians' rhythms are pure Krautrock motorik, straight from the Can and Neu! school. The dreamy vocals recall Barrett era Floyd, or perhaps more to the point, the early 90s neo psych of Sun Dial

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Astrakan, England

News: In 2016, Astrakan released their 3rd album Hidden Agenda. I haven't heard it to date. Otherwise not much to report here.

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Location: London

Overview: Astrakan are a fine band operating between Canterbury and jazzier forms of rock. Comets and Monsters adds an avant prog edge.

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