Tag Archives: Winter in Eden

Cambridge Rock Festival 2014 – Part Two

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

For those who’s tastes run towards progressive rock and metal, Sunday was always going to be the day to be looked forward to the most. Continue reading

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Winter in Eden – With Intent

Winter in Eden’s “With Intent”, the lead track from the forthcoming album “Court of Conscience”, which you can still pre-order from their online shop.

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Winter in Eden album pre-order

Court_Of_ConscienceWinter in Eden announce pre-orders for their third album “Court of Conscience”.

2014 brings us Winter In Edens highly anticipated third studio album ‘Court of Conscience’. Recorded in the Netherlands it contains eleven songs which build and further refine the unique style that is Winter in Eden. Produced by Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation) and mixed by Stefan Helleblad (Within Temptation), it also features guest vocals by the multi award winning Damian Wilson (Threshold) and Jermain van der Bogt (For All We Know, Ayreon).

The result is powerful, modern and balanced. Each instrument can clearly be heard within the Metal and the Symphonic, and the live strings on ‘The Script’ are truly wonderous. ‘Court of Conscience’ retains the band’s signature of thought-provoking lyrics mixed with memorable melodies. Whilst no two songs are alike, fans will be delighted to hear that the band’s approach to this album is a familiar one. With hard and heavy anthems such as ‘Knife Edge’ and ‘Toxicate’, more chilled and progressive tracks such as ‘Burdened’ and ‘It’s Not Enough’ along with the blues rock of ‘Affliction’, this collection of songs has something for each taste and mood.

You can pre-order it today from the Winter in Eden online shop.

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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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2012 Albums of the Year – Part One

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when everyone who fancies themselves as a music critic lists the records that have defined their year.

The usual disclaimers apply, of course. They’re selected from the albums of 2012 that I’ve actually had the chance to hear over the course of the year. It’s also a personal list of albums that have made an impression on me rather than any attempt to declare them the “best” of the year, whatever that might mean. Which is why there are very obscure independent releases alongside heavily-promoted major-label albums.

My self-imposed rules exclude both live albums and studio restatements of past material, although Steve Hackett’s “Genesis Revisited II” and Heather Findlay’s “Songs From The Old Kitchen” deserve mention.

It was going to be a top 20, but once I’d got my list finalised someone went and released a record in the middle of December that really deserved to be on the list. So now it’s a top 21. I’ve given up trying to rank all 21 album in any kind of order, and have gone for grouping them under Good, Great, Superb and Legendary, the last being my album of the year.

So here are the ten Good albums, which form numbers 21 to 12 in the list, ordered alphabetically.

Joe BonamassaDriving Towards The Daylight

Excellent album of guitar-shredding blues-rock from one of the most exciting guitar players of his generation, with electrifying takes on blues standards from the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon alongside a handful of original numbers. Yes, the ever-prolific Bonamassa can probably turn out albums like this in his sleep, but that’s just a measure of his talent.

DelainWe Are The Others

A seamless blend of in-your-face metal riffs and chart-friendly pop choruses, featuring the remarkable vocals of Charlotte Wessels, all of which makes it more of a mystery why a major label sat on this record for months before releasing it. If only daytime radio wasn’t afraid of big-sounding guitars.

EnslavedRiitiir

Symphonically-dense wall-of-sound metal which mixes moments of brutal heaviness with a surprising amount of melody. There’s plenty of death-metal growling, but there are also passages that prove how well metal riffs and Gregorian chants go together.

It BitesMap Of The Past

The 80s pop-prog veterans reformed a few years back, with the talented John Mitchell at the helm.  Although the latest album doesn’t quite top 2008′s “The Tall Ships”, it’s still an impressive work that combines emotionally-rich songwriting with all the widdly soloing you could possibly want.

Mermaid KissAnother Country

A move away from the symphonic prog-rock of their previous album “Etarlis”, with a beautiful semi-acoustic record with touches of Americana and gospel. Not many bands have Cor Anglais as a principle lead instrument.

Sankara Guided By Degrees CD ArtworkSankaraGuided By Degrees

An impressive melodic hard rock début from former members of The Bluehorses and The Reasoning. It’s a rich, multilayered record in which Gareth Jones’s excellent vocal performance proves he’s more than capable fronting his own band.

Shadow Of The Sun – Monument

Former Reasoning guitarist Dylan Thompson returns with some prog-tinged hard rock/metal with guitars that go up to Eleven. A record that’s only been out a few days and I’ve only given a handful of listens. But that’s enough convince me it belongs on this list.

Howard SinclairThe Delicious Company of Freaks

Lyric-driven semi-acoustic balladry from the Bristol-based singer-songwriter who supported Panic Room on their November tour. Some memorable songs, with one high point being the spellbinding “These Dark Hills” sung as a duet with Panic Room’s Anne-Marie Helder.

SquackettA Life Within A Day

Two of the most distinctive instrumentalists in the prog-rock world combine their talents for a polished and song-focussed album. At times this collaboration sounds like Steve Hackett with a different bassist, at times it’s Yes with different guitars and vocals. “The Tall Ships” with it’s bass groove and soaring vocal harmonies is a particular highlight.

"I fireball the gazebo"Winter in EdenEchoes of Betrayal

With a great vocalist in Vicky Johnson, the Durham-based band prove if the songwriting is good enough it’s possible to do female-fronted symphonic metal without needing the choirs, orchestras and kitchen sinks of the more extravagant European bands.

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Karnataka and Winter in Eden, Leamington Assembly

Karnataka’s extensive Autumn/Winter 2012 tour came to the magnificent Leamington Assembly on the 17th November.

Wiinter in Eden at The Assembly in Leamington Spa

Winter in Eden, fronted by Vicky Johnson (above) made a very complementary support act,and helped boost the crowd by bringing along a lot of their own fans. A British take on the European symphonic metal genre, they were one of the highlights of the first day of the Cambridge Rock Festival back in August. This support set carried on where they left off then, and made a very strong impression.

Wiinter in Eden at The Assembly in Leamington Spa

Unlike some bands of their ilk they don’t rely on choirs and orchestras that can’t be produced live without backing tapes. Steve Johnson’s keys and Sam Cull superb fluid guitar give them all the instrumental depth the music needs.

Karnataka at The Assembly, Leamington

The latest incarnation of Karnataka got off to a strong start when they toured in the spring, and their recent “New Light” DVD is a good document of that tour. Now down to a basic five-piece minus multi-instrumentalist Colin Mold, their sound has become rawer and rockier. Lead singer Hayley Griffiths has grown far more in to the role of frontwoman for a rock band, getting inside the songs far more than she did in the spring.

Karnataka at The Assembly, Leamington

While most of the material naturally still dates to the Rachel Jones and Lisa Fury versions of the band, the set did include some brand new songs, at least one of which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Winter in Eden’s set.

Karnataka at The Assembly, Leamington

One of the big attractions of Karnataka’s music is still Enrico Pinna’s fantastic guitar playing, with the extended workout on the epic “Forsaken” a particular highlight.

Karnataka play one final show in 2012 at The Scala in London, again with Winter in Eden as the support. Tickets available online here.

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The Cambridge Rock Festival

My review of the weekend is now up on Trebuchet Magazine, here are a few of my photos from the weekend.

Virgil and the Accellerators at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Virgil and the Accellerators were an early highlight, playing some guitar-shredding electric blues.

The Heather Findlay Band at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Heather Findlay played her first full band gig on a big stage since November last year, and went down a storm.

Sankara at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Sankara, fronted by Gareth Jones, formerly of The Reasoning played the CRS stage, and made a strong impression with their mix of hard rock, metal and AOR.

WInter in Eden at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Winter in Eden, fronted by Vicky Johnson, played an absolute blinder as special guests on the CRS stage.

SIlverjet at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Silverjet. Because first thing in the morning, some back to basics rock and roll is what a festival needs.

Stolen Earth at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Stolen Earth were another band who rose to the big occasion to play one of the best sets they’ve ever done.

Panic Room at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Panic Room did what Panic Room do, which was to blow everybody away. They really should have been far higher up the bill.

Chantel McGregor at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Chantel McGregor delivered another incendiary set, great songwriting and some spectacular guitar pyrotechnics.

Flanborough  Head at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Flanborough Head played some delightful old-school prog. There is nothing quite like a flute solo backed by Mellotron.

Mr So and So at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Mr So and So impressed me a lot, they came over a lot better than last year.

Touchstone at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

The mighty Touchstone stormed the stage to deliver an impressive high-energy set.

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn, special guests on the Sunday night and playing their first gig since the end of last year did not disappoint.

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Cambridge Rock Festival 2010

The Cambridge Rock Festival is one of the many small rock festivals held up and down the country.  The CRF specialises in classic rock, blues and prog, and as I’ve said before it’s like visiting an alternate universe where punk never happened.  You won’t find much NME-friendly corporate landfill indie on the bill here.

This was my third CRF, and my second spending the full weekend under canvas.


I travelled up with my mate Andy, a fellow Mostly Autumn and Breathing Space fan, and we soon met up with fellow-fans Colin, Helen and Chris (a.k.a. The Cider Monster) on the campsite. Of course, we were to meet many, many more old friends over the course of the weekend,

For the early part of Thursday evening we decided to avoid the tribute bands on the main stage and check out some of the young bands on the second stage, such as Rowse, JoanovArc, The Treatment and The Virginmarys, before heading for the main stage for the headliners, Danny Vaughn’s The 80s Rocked.  They were billed as “an all-star band playing classic 80s rock hits”, and more or less did what they said on the tin, as cheesy as a very cheesy thing, but thoughoughly entertaining nevertheless.  Name an 80s rock hit, and they probably played it.  Eye of the Tiger?  You Give Love a Bad Name?  The Final Countdown? Of course!

The Classic Rock Society sponsored the second stage on Friday, with a bill made up of prog and metal. So we decided to stay in the smaller tent for most of the day then move to the main stage for the last 2-3 acts. The CRS stage opened with the acoustic four-piece Flaming June, whose red-headed singer reminded me more than a bit of a female version of Chris Johnson both in style and lyrics.  Best bands on the CRS stage were Winter In Eden, a British take on the European female-fronted symphonic metal genre, and Crimson Sky, who play female-fronted prog but with a quite punky/new wave style singer that sets them apart from other bands in the genre.  Final Conflict and The Dreaming Tree also played some entertaining progressive rock.  I didn’t see much of the main stage in the early part of the day, although I did catch some of UXL and Newman during intervals on the CRS stage, the latter of whom I heard described worryingly accurately as sounding “like filler tracks on Journey albums”.  At the end of The Dreaming Tree’s set I headed over to the main stage and caught the bulk of Danny Bryant’s Redeye Band, the excellent blues power trio who’d played the exact same slot the previous year.

Deborah Bonham, the late John Bonham’s younger sister, took Friday’s special guest spot, and even though I knew none of the songs, she was probably the best artist of the day. She played a set of raw and rootsy blues-rock with more than a hint of Led Zeppelin about it. Certainly she can reach the high notes that Robert Plant can’t get to any more.  After her set came The Tygers of Pan Tang, who I thought were a bit out of their depth as headliners, and suffered from an appalling sound mix that rendered the vocals all but inaudible in the early part of the set. Still I enjoyed their set quite a bit, and I seemed to get shown on the big screen rather a lot.  This is what happens when you’re with mates who drag you to the front row!

I spent most of Saturday in the main tent, kicking off with some no-nonsense rock’n'roll from Wolf Law, which was just the sort of thing we needed to wake us up first thing in the morning. The real sensation of the day was second on the bill, the young blues guitarist Chantal McGregor, who simply blew us all away. How on earth does someone that young get to play guitar like that?

After that it was over to the smaller tent to catch Emerald Sky’s set. Perhaps because I’d mentally confused them with Crimson Sky.  I was expecting a prog band, but they turned out to be an all-female metal power trio.  After that I spent the rest of the day back in the main stage tent.  Stray were as entertaining as they were last year, but another high spot was blues guitarist Larry Miller. If you remember, he (along with Karnataka) got bounced from the main stage due to the PA snafu last year – and on the strength of his performance on Saturday I think I’d have preferred those two to Focus and Asia!  His solo on the slow number (don’t remember the title) was utterly brain-melting.

Saturday’s special guests were the Oliver Dawson Saxon, who turned out to be the only real disappointment of the whole festival. They’re basically trading as a Saxon tribute band in competition with Biff Byford’s official Saxon, yet they played a whole load of mediocre new songs instead of many of the hits.  And their singer was awful.  Every festival must have it’s dud (it’s a rule, it seems), and they were that dud.

Saturday’s headliners were the Monsters of British Rock, originally billed as The Moody Murray Whitesnake until the intervention of David Coverdale’s lawyers forced a change of name.  As well as Micky Moody and Neil Murray from the original British incarnation of Whitesnake the band also included Laurie Wisefield of Wishbone Ash fame as the second guitarist, and Harry James of Thunder and Magnum fame on drums. While they weren’t perfect, they could have done with a better singer, and a bit more keys in the mix, I still enjoyed their set a lot.  Part of that was down to the company I was with (what’s better than listening to whole load of Whitesnake songs in the company of three extremely beautiful women?), and part of it was because the pre-hair metal Whitesnake songbook is absolutely full of classic tunes.  My one quibble is that it’s “Hobo”, not “Drifter”. Band and audience sang the wrong version!


On to Sunday, the day I was looking forward to the most, with Mostly Autumn, Panic Room and Breathing Space on the bill.

Opener IO Earth divided opinions; some loved genre-bending mix of female-fronted prog, jazz, dance and Joe Satriani-style guitar pyrotechnics, while they left others scratching their heads. While their guitarist was very good indeed, they came over to me as something of work in progress, just too many differing styles to sit comfortably in one band.  We’ll have to see how they develop.

Next up, Panic Room, who played an absolute blinder of a set. As readers of this blog will know, I’ve seen them a lot of times over the past couple of years, and that was at least as good a performance I’ve ever seen them do.  Apart from the surprise cover of ELP’s “Bitches Crystal” the whole set came from the most recent album “Satellite”, ending with a soaring rendition of the title track.  Just a pity they were on so early that many people missed them; on the strength of that set, if they come back they’ll be much higher up the bill.

I’d seen Kyrbgrinder last year on the smaller Radio Caroline stage, this year they returned on the main stage. Certainly the most in-your-face metal band of the whole festival. Like last year, frontman drummer Joannes James is still very much the visual focus of the band, but this we also had some amazing guitar shredding from their new guitarist Tom Caris.

In April in Gloucester I witnessed the rebirth of Mostly Autumn with Breathing Space’s former singer Olivia Sparnenn taking over lead vocals.  At Cambridge we witnessed a similar  rebirth as the new-look Breathing Space took the stage with new members Heidi Widdop on lead vocals and Adam Dawson on guitar. It’s never easy for a new singer to sing often quite personal material written by the previous singer, but Heidi took songs like “Searching For My Shadow” and made them hers. She has a rawer, bluesier vocal style compared with Livvy, which completely transforms the sound of the band.  You’d never have known that she’s suffered from throat problems that forced the cancellation of a warm-up gig a couple of days earlier. Adam Dawson also impressed, completely nailing the solos.  This is a band who have landed on their feet after some enforced changes, and the two news songs premiered promise some exciting times ahead.

Aireya 51 were by far the weakest band on Sunday’s bill; we’d seen a lot of people doing the singer-guitarist thing over the weekend and doing it far better. That was up to the point where Don Airey joined them on stage on Hammond organ and showed us the difference between an anonymous session muso and a Rock Star.  That last 20 minutes was great, and more than made up for the rest of the set.

Praying Mantis were another of the revelations of the festival. I’d seen them at one of the early 80s Reading Festivals, and they’d seemed one of the also-rans of the NWOBHM scene.  Fast-forward 30 years and what we have now is an absolutely superb melodic rock band, awesomely tight, great vocals and some wonderful twin-guitar harmonies.

Hazel O’Connor and the Subterraneans seemed a bit out of place on the bill; an 80s new-wave pop act in a sea of classic rock and prog. But the enthusiasm of her performance soon won over the crowd, aided by a tight band featuring some superb sax playing from Claire Hurst.  After a weekend of axe heroes seeing a band where the lead instrument isn’t a guitar made a welcome change. Apart from the big hit “Eighth Day” and a cover of The Stranglers’ “Hanging Around” I didn’t know any of the songs, but it didn’t matter. And I wasn’t the only person to note the Irish-themed song played as an encore bore more than a passing resemblance to Mostly Autumn’s “Out of the Inn”.

Prog veterans The Enid took the special guest spot. I know a few people I spoke to afterwards just didn’t get what they do, but down the front it was a different matter and their unique brand of largely-instrumental symphonic rock had the audience absolutely mesmerised, the festival crowd stunned into silence. While I didn’t recognise everything they played, the set included faves like “In the Region of the Summer Stars”, a big chunk of the new album, finished with a spellbinding “Dark Hydraulic”.

After that, only my favourite band could possibly end things, and they didn’t disappoint. Their 80-minute set might not quite have been up to the standard of their very best performances on the spring tour, but given the constraints of a festival it was still a very good performance, far, far better than the gremlin-plagued set from last year’s festival. No surprises in the setlist, but given the fact they band have been busy in studio writing and recording the new album we didn’t really expect any.  Highlights were a great version of “The Last Bright Light”, one that hasn’t always worked for me live, the former Breathing Space song “Questioning Eyes”, and a very powerful “Heroes Never Die”.


While this year’s festival may have lacked any of the sort of bigger name headliners who’s played in previous years, it nevertheless gave us four days of excellent music, some spellbinding performances, some great company, and last but not least, some great beer. (If you find a pub selling Leo Zodiac, buy a pint or two, it’s excellent!).  The whole thing had such a wonderful vibe that I was still on a high more than a week later.  Great credit to the organisers, and to the stage and PA crews who made the whole thing run as smoothly as it didn’t last year. Overall I found I enjoyed it far more than the far bigger High Voltage festival in London too weeks earlier.

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