Tag Archives: Panic Room

HRH Prog in Pictures – Saturday

September Code at HRH Prog

The consequence of having a photo pass for a three-day rock festival is you end up taking an awful lot of photos; indeed I took over 900 on the Saturday. I’ve used a few to illustrate my review, and here are a few more, all from Saturday. Here’s Dim Koskinas of September Code, the opening band of the day.

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HRH Prog 2

Crimson Sky's Jane Setter at HRH ProgJane Setter of Crimson Sky

HRH Prog 2 is a residential rock festival held in this year the former Butlins holiday camp at Hafan-Y-Mor just outside Pwllheli in north Wales, following on from the successful first festival held in Rotherham a year ago.

It’s certainly a long way from anywhere, at the end of miles and miles of single-carriageway roads winding through the Welsh hills, or an equally winding single-track railway line, and it certainly wasn’t the organisers’ fault that part of the train journey was by replacement bus because the tracks had been washed away in a storm. There were complaints from some quarters that it was an inconvenient location. But it was an equal opportunity inconvenience; it takes just as long wherever you’re coming from. Continue reading

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Panic Room – Incarnate

IncarnatePanic Room had something of a troubled 2013. Several years hard work paid off with a growing reputation and audience for their powerful and sophisticated mix of rock, folk, jazz and metal. Then their year began with the departure of the lead guitarist, founder member Paul Davies. While Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood did a sterling job standing in on their already-booked tour, his commitments to his own band ruled out any longer-term involvement. So they initially announced that they’d be writing their fourth album as a four-piece. Then around the time the band were ready to enter the studio they announced the recruitment of Adam O’Sullivan, bringing the band back up to full strength.

In a rock band the lead guitarist can often be as important as the singer, so how would the new-look Panic Room sound?

Hard rocking opener “Velocity” with its spiralling guitar riff is close to the feel of their last album, but with the next few numbers a rather different sound emerges. It’s a step away from the rich wall of sound that characterised the last couple of Panic Room albums, with a lighter, more pared-back feel that has as much in common with Panic Room’s acoustic side-project Luna Rossa than it does with 2012′s “Skin”. In places there are echoes of the début “Visionary Position” and the singer-songwriter feel of Anne-Marie Helder’s 2006 solo record “The Contact”, and it’s notable that Anne-Marie has sole songwriting credit for half of the ten songs.

There are plenty of moments where the space in the mix gives individual members the chance to shine. There’s some inventive drumming from Gavin Griffiths, and some great understated Fender Rhodes from Jon Edwards across much of the album. Adam O’Sullivan’s guitar isn’t always prominent, though he does have his spotlight moments. Much of his playing has a strong jazz flavour, with some great bluesy rippling flourishes. A good example is on “Nothing New” where his guitar work duels with some equally jazzy piano runs from Jon Edwards. The one moment towards the end of the album where he cuts loose with a rock-style solo, it’s superb. Yet again Anne-Marie’s vocals are everything you’d expect from someone voted Best Female Singer by readers of Prog magazine, hitting the sweet spot between melody and expressiveness.

Much of the strongest material comes in the second half of the album. The atmospheric “Into Temptation” with its eastern-sounding vibe is reminiscent of parts of “Endgame” from the band’s début. The following three numbers “All The We Are”, “Searching”, and the soaring “Close The Door” all demonstrate Anne-Marie’s talents as a singer-songwriter.

The album closes with the dark and brooding “Dust”, an ambitiously progressive piece sounding like Massive Attack crossed with late-period Led Zeppelin, building on a repeated motif keeps going round and round in your head even after the album has finished playing.

At this stage in their career, Panic Room could easily have attempted a retread of the well-regarded “Skin”. But that would have been a mistake, and they should be applauded for not simply repeating a successful formula. It’s not quite perfect; the album might have benefited from one or two out-and-out rockers in the vein of Skin’s “Hiding the World” or Satellite’s “Dark Star” to add variety and raise the energy level. But it does feel like the beginning of a new chapter for the band. This is album by a band not afraid to try something slightly different, and there is much to like about it, especially after repeated listens. It’s still unmistakably Panic Room, but with their sophisticated sound it’s a record with a wider crossover potential too.

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Panic Room – Incarnate Promo

Panic Room have released a promo with teasers from the forthcoming album “Incarnate”, to be released on 10th March.

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Gigs of the Year – 2013 Edition

Panic Room at Sound Control in Manchester

I went to so many gigs in 2013 I ended up losing count; everything from local cover bands in pubs to rock monsters in enormodomes, and everything in between. There have been a few gigs outside my usual comfort zone, such as The Damned and The Orb; I even went to see Iron Maiden at the O2 Arena, a band I last saw in 1982.  I even went to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band…

Picking a best-of list out of all those gigs is a hard one, but these six stand out as ones to remember for all the right reasons.

Marillion – UK Convention Saturday

Marillion’s fan conventions are always amazing experiences, with a hall full of hardcore fans and three sets with completely different setlists over the three nights. The end result is an electric atmosphere that few regular gigs can approach. All three nights in Wolverhampton were amazing experiences, but for me the best of the three was Saturday, with the dark, intense concept album “Brave” played in its entirety.

Fish – Islington O2 Academy

I got to see Fish four times this year, twice in his spring tour before the band went into the studio to record the album, and twice in the autumn on the tour to promote the album. All were great shows, with the big man on superb form, the London gig in May was a real standout.

Steve Hackett – Hammersmith Apollo

I wasn’t entirely convinced by Steve Hackett’s restatement of his Genesis legacy in the studio; the re-recorded versions seemed to add little to the much-loved favourites. But live it was a completely different experience; a triumphant and uplifting celebration of the magnificent music that deservedly won many standing ovations.  The Guardian completely missed the point.

Panic Room + Morpheus Rising – Manchester Sound Control

Panic Room have had a few ups and downs this year, forced to regroup following the departure of lead guitarist and founder member Paul Davies. Their tour in early summer featured Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood standing in guitar doing double duty with both the headliners and his own band. The tour ended with two superb shows in Bilston and Manchester demonstrating the band’s ability to triumph over adversity, with great support from Morpheus Rising, themselves premiering a lot of new material.

Mostly Autumn + Chantel McGregor, Islington O2 Academy

Mostly Autumn have been a bit hit-and-miss as live band during 2013, with fluctuating lineups from gig to gig due to various members’ other commitments. But the stars aligned when they came to London in Ocober. Chantel McGregor’s incendiary opening set gave the whole show the feel of a co-headliner, and Mostly Autumn’s barnstorming set had to be one of the best shows they’ve done in the past two or three years.

Steven Wilson, Royal Albert Hall

Steve Wilson came to London’s most prestigious major venue with his band including Theo Travis, Guthie Govan, Nick Beggs and Zappa alumnus Chad Wakerman, with the combined virtuosity you’d expect from a top-flight jazz ensemble rather than typical rock band. They proceed to delivere a mesmerising set drawn almost entirely from Steve Wilson’s three recent solo work, reinventing 70s Mellotron-drenched progressive rock to make it relevant to the 21st century. There are still people missing Porcupine Tree, but on the strength of shows like this, his new band are very good trade.

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Pre-Order for Panic Room’s “Incarnate”

Panic Room at Bilston Robin 2, July 2013

Panic Room are now taking pre-orders for their fourth album “Incarnate”, due for release in February 2014, via this link.

They are also excited to announce that they will be hosting an exalusive, limited 100-ticket-only Album Launch Party on 7th February 2014 at the grand hall of The Gate in Cardiff. This will sell out quickly!

Panic Room have also revealed the track listing of the new album:

Velocity
Start The Sound
Incarnate
Nothing New
The Waterfall
Into Temptation
All That We Are
Searching
Close The Door
Dust

Those of us who were able to get to their last two shows of 2013 will have heard five of those songs live; on a couple of listens these are sounding impressive.

Panic Room will also be touring in April and June to promote the album. There are still one or two dates still to be announced, but the dates so far include Gloucester, Bath and Reading.

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Panic Room and Winter In Eden at Shildon

Panic Room at Shildon Civic Hall

Panic Room had originally intended a more extensive tour in November and December 2013. But the band’s decision not to book any further live dates until they had a new lead guitarist in place meant that they ended up putting the tour back until the new year, leaving the two already booked dates as their last live appear appearances of 2013.

The first of these took place in Shildon, a replacement for an earlier show in Darlington cancelled due to the unfortunate closure of the rock club. The replacement venue, Shildon Civic Hall is a typical modern multi-purpose arts centre, and despite the remote location still managed to attract enough of the faithful to make a decent crowd.

Laying out the hall with tables and chairs was probably a mistake. In theory the high stage should have meant people could stand at the front without blocking the views of those seated further back, but in practice it meant that almost everybody remained seated, which did rob the gig of a bit of energy.

Winter in Eden at Shildon Civic Hall

Panic Room invited Winter in Eden, a band with a strong local following, to open the show, and by the number of t-shirts in evidence Winter in Eden’s fanbase swelled the crowd quite a bit. For those not familiar with their music, they could be described as “Nightwish with a British accent”, with a very impressive vocalist in Vicky Johnson, and more emphasis on lead guitar than many of the Euro symphonic metal acts.

Though marred slightly by poor sound (I thought they were a tad too loud), they put in a an energetic performance drawn heavily from their second album “Echoes of Betrayal”. The band have been in the studio recording their third album, and played one new number from it, sounding like an interesting progression of their sound.

Panic Room at Shildon Civic Hall

For Panic Room fans the two big questions were “How was new guitarist?” and “What were the new songs like?”.  After the departure of founding lead guitarist Paul Davies at the beginning of the year, the band played their spring tour with Morpheus Rising guitarist Pete Harwood standing in, who did a remarkably good job. This Shildon show marked the début of Adam O’Sullivan who joins as a permanent member of the band.

I think Adam made a good enough first impression. He’s still finding his feet to some extent, and probably needs a couple more gigs to grow into the role, but he’s clearly got the chops to do the guitar parts justice. He takes an interestingly different approach on some of the newer material, with volume-control atmospherics. One thing I noticed was he doesn’t play slide at all, which makes some older numbers, such as the cover of “Bitches Chrystal” sound a little different.

As for the new songs, they played no less than five numbers from the forthcoming album “Incarnate” due for release early in the new year. It’s difficult to judge new material on one listen, given Panic Room’s sophisticated and layered sound, but all five new songs sounded good, and they don’t sound like retreads of things the band have done before either. There are some classic Anne-Marie soaring melodies, some out-and-out rock, and some interestingly different arrangements that seem a step back from the wall-of-sound approach of SKIN.

Panic Room’s final gig of 2013 is their annual pre-Christmas show at The Robin 2 in Bilston on December 1st.

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Panic Room Tour News

Panic Room at Sound Control in Manchester

Anne-Marie Helder has posted on the Official Panic Room Facebook Group about progress on the new album (it’s almost finished) and forthcoming tour dates.

As Anne-Marie explains, the band had originally hoped to play a far more extensive tour in November, but things were overtaken by events, specifically the need to recruit a new guitarist. So the band have put back the tour into the new year, leaving the two already announced dates as the only remaining live appearances by Panic Room this year.

Those are on November 24th at Shildon Civic, with Winter in Eden supporting, and their annual Christmas show at Bilston Robin 2.

The Shildon one is an interesting one, with doors at 4pm, and finishing by 9pm, and with a very strong support it promises to be a spectacular evening. With the new album due for release in the new year, these two shows will be the first opportunity to hear some of the new material. It will also mark the debut of the band’s new lead guitarist, Adam O’Sullivan.

The band have announced the first couple of dates for next spring, including a visit to Norwich and a return to the Netherlands. There are more shows still to be announced.

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Panic Room announce new guitarist

From the Panic Room Facebook Page: a studio update that names the lead guitarist for the forthcoming album and tour.

Some of you have been asking, and we’ve been biding our time to tell you (while we jam & learn our new songs together)… but for this album, we are delighted to welcome on lead guitar a fantastic musician by the name of Adam O’Sullivan!!!

Many of us in the band have known Adam for a few years now, as he and his family are well-known as some of the most respected musicians in this area… Gav & Yatim even play occasionally in a band with his dad, Paddy!

But for a few years Adam was away in London studying music at university, so our paths didn’t cross for a little while…

He’s now back in Wales though, and after spending a long time debating our options this year, we realised we needed someone local to us for working together on the future Panic Room music.

We’ve been absolutely blessed to have the amazing skills & energy of Pete Harwood on guitar with us for this year’s shows so far, but as will become apparent this week, his band Morpheus Rising have some big stuff coming up, and we want to wish him an incredible future ahead with all the success he and the band so thoroughly deserve!

He will always be a part of our Panic Room family, and we’re sure it won’t be the last time we all share a stage / tour together!

But now, for the new Panic Room album and this next unfolding chapter of our journey, we knew it was important to be brave and leap into the future, and think about who could possibly fit our band sound & vibe the best while being close enough to jam and create with…

And we all thought of Adam, as one of the best and most versatile players we know, and certainly one of Wales’ finest!

He’s a rare find, in that he can rock hard & yet play with great sensitivity too, as well as having a fantastic funky/jazz flair which will suit our stuff all round!

We think you’ll all Love his playing.

And that’s good, because he’ll be playing all lead guitar parts on this new album! …As well as joining us on stage for the autumn/winter shows..

And after that, who knows! If he likes what he finds, he might stick around ;oD

As anyone who saw those two incredible shows at Bilston and Manchester at the end of the Summer tour will attest, Pete Harwood did an incredible job, absolutely nailing the guitar parts and adding so much energy it was like having two Yatims on stage (or, as happened in at Bilston, in the middle of the audience). Quite a few fans would have loved to see him stay for longer, but with Morpheus Rising having ambitious plans of their own it was always going to be unlikely that he’d ever be able to continue double duty in both bands.

So, we welcome Adam O’Sullivan to the band, for the next few months, at least.

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Panic Room & Morpheus Rising, The Flowerpot

After a one-off gig in Milton Keynes back in April, Panic Room came to The Flowerpot in Derby for the first date of their short UK tour.

Morpheus Rising at The Flowerpot in Derby

Openers Morpheus Rising had supported Panic Room on last November, and they’re back again for this tour. They have a changed lineup for these gigs, with Touchstone’s Henry Rogers joining the band on drums, and this weekend, Andy Gooby standing in for Andy Smith, who was off in Holland with Mostly Autumn. Despite the musical chairs, they are getting better and better as a live band with their modern take on classic twin lead guitar hard rock.

They’re now working on a second album, and the set contained quite a bit of brand-new material alongside favourites from their first disk “Let the Sleeper Awake”. Their signature guitar harmonies between Pete Harwood and Damien James Sweeting are as good as ever, with some very impressive soloing from Damien in particular. The new material came over very strongly, possibly slightly more riff-orientated than before, and whets the appetite for the forthcoming album.

Anne-Marie Helder plays the silver wand at The Flowerpot

Panic Room themselves have an altered lineup from last year, with Pete Harwood doing double duty in both bands. Playing only his third gig with the band, he’s fitted in very well. With Morpheus Rising he doesn’t play many solos, leaving them to Damien Sweeting with his flashier shred-metal style. But Pete Harwood’s playing suits Panic Room’s music perfectly. He’s got the same less-is-more understated style as the departed Paul Davies, which is precisely the sort of guitarist Panic Room’s music needs. There are many bands made up from a couple of key members plus supporting cast, but Panic Room have always been an ensemble where the whole is far more than the sum of the parts.

It’s almost impossible to pick out highlights from Panic Room’s set, such is the strength of their material. The set naturally drew heavily from their latest album “Skin” with selected highlights from the first two albums. The songs range from the out-and-out hard rock of “Apocalypstick” and “Hiding The World” to the emotional intensity of “Skin” and “The Fall”. The jazz-flavoured “Chameleon” saw Anne-Marie Helder’s ‘Silver Wand’ making an appearance, and they’re still playing their inventive reworking of ELP’s “Bitches Crystal”. Anne-Marie was on superb form as always, demonstrating just why she’s an award-winning vocalist. But then so was everyone else.

With The Flowerpot not far short of full, one wonders how much longer it will be possible to see this band playing small and intimate venues like this. The tour continues with shows in London, Norwich, Bilston and Manchester before Panic Room head into the studio to work on their fourth album.

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