I never used to be pleased to see an album with only seven songs; it just didn’t seem like good value –but nowadays seven songs clocking in at over an hour seems like a promise of some good development and most likely some serious musicianship, so I’m all aboard!

The Mighty Bard are a British prog-rock band and new album ‘Beyond the Gate’ promises “a collection of songs that encapsulate the mystery and wonder of the mystical world”… expect to get lost in the myst, then. It’s a bit Demons and Wizards in ambition and feels to me like late-era Led Zeppelin playing songs in the style of Pink Floyd – but it adds to this character a piano (and synth) which drives a lot of the songs and provides as many lead parts as the guitar. This gives the album a bit of a different feel to a
lot of the other music I’ve heard in this genre. I was expecting the weird time signatures, the slightly off-key guitar soloing and the extended instrumentals but the breakdowns where other bands might stick to acoustic guitar are augmented here by strings and woodwind, showing a bit more ambition – although some of the sounds are a little artificial, and end up sounding a little like Final Fantasy or another computer game soundtrack – but it doesn’t take much away from the overall sound.

The tones are an interesting mix – the bass has a nice character to it the guitars are very “1970’s Who” and the drums are mixed very alive – this all works to bring the piano into the fold and show off the musicianship and all works well with the often-falsetto vocals and very stylised backing vocals but it does contrast to other modern bands in the prog-rock style who might make heavier use of distortion, guitar effects and a tight, unified, bass-heavy mix. What we end up with is a sound that’s more Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield or even Genesis than Opeth or Mars Volta and it reminds me of a lot of the records I reviewed some years back from Fruits de Mer
records. ‘Guarded Secret’ opens with what sounds a little like the outro from Eric Clapton’s Layla adapted by Porcupine Tree and ‘Secret Garden’ even has a vibe of the 90s Britpoppers Divine Comedy until we hit a groovy breakdown. As singer Benj relates, at the end of ‘Secret Garden’, ‘I believe in happy endings; I believe in fairy tales; I believe in knights in shining armour riding to the rescue’ – and yet, when we reach the last of my seven songs, I find it’s just the classic prog trick of reworking opening song for the outro. Still, six and a half songs I enjoyed listening to and clearly a very capable band.

The Mighty Bard: Beyond The Gate – Out 7th July 2023 (Epitronic Records)

Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.