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"Incredible (five stars out of five)"

Take a moment to digest the album art that you see above you (you can view an enormous version by clicking on it).

Now, The Garden is a masterful and enormous piece of progressive rock as multifaceted as the complex album art that accompanies it. Similar in some ways to Genesis, Magic Pie and the Flower Kings, Unitopia offers progressive rock of the highest caliber: beautiful symphonic arrangements backed by superb instrumentation and strong vocals. In addition, it's an album that constantly surprises the listener.

The Australian band Unitopia began in 1996, but did not release an album until nine years later with the debut, entitled More than a Dream. It's an album that, as guitarist and keyboardist Sean Timms explains, "was a labor of love, something we did in our infrequent spare time. We weren’t necessarily recording an album, just writing a collection of songs for our own enjoyment." The album was well received, though it was received by very few. The Garden, on the other hand, is seeing wide release on Inside Out Music.

The Garden is a collection of fifteen songs spread across two CDs--each CD totaling about fifty minutes. It is not a concept album, but it does have a leitmotif of "redemption" as described by Timms. "It is an album about hope coming from despair," says Timms. There's a ton of content here, with songs ranging from under two minutes to over twenty minutes. In short, variety is a definite characteristic of the album, and one of its greatest strengths.

This album is, instrumentally, about as flawless as an album can be. There are more instruments on this album than I can count, and they're all used to great effect. For example, the first track, One Day, opens with a beautiful piano melody and the vocals of singer Mark Trueack. On the next track, however, there's far more going on--orchestral arrangements, tribal percussion, flute, saxophone, clean guitar, overdriven guitar, etc. There are so many sounds in this song that I can't rightly identify them all--and I loved every minute of it. Throughout the remainder of the album, the band presents yet more instrumental sounds. In fact, the midsection of the album's other epic, Journey's Friend, approaches progressive metal, with instrumentation that gets quite heavy and a vocal delivery that, in my best attempt to describe it, sounds a bit like Brian Johnson from AC/DC.

Yet for those not keen on AC/DC, fear not (it's a very loose comparison, anyway). Throughout the rest of the album, vocalist Mark Trueack delivers a stellar performance that can best be described as the perfect balance of Peter Gabriel and IQ's Peter Nicholls (who himself sounds very much like Peter Gabriel). In essence, fans of bands such as Genesis and IQ should find plenty to like here. However, the vocal melodies, in many cases, seem even more melodic than the offerings from similar bands. As a result, Trueack's vocals seem more accessible, and may very likely appeal to those who aren't fans of Gabriel.

Lyrically, the album remains strong for a majority of the tracks, though the later songs begin to sound more generic lyrically. On those tracks, love becomes the theme, and it is treated in a very straightforward way, as on the track "Love Never Ends," which proclaims "Our love takes me to a higher place..." and so on. Ultimately, the lyrics aren't bad, but they're hardly memorable in many places. Yet, in songs like "The Garden," they're more open to interpretation and more liable to cause some deep thought in the listener.

The Garden is a stunning album--beautiful, powerful, and incredibly fun to listen to. It's full of changes and surprises, yet it is consistently strong. Fans of progressive rock will agree: 70s style progressive rock has never been done quite like this--not even in the '70s. Unitopia deserves a spot with the best artists of the current progressive rock scene.

Andrew Kauz
- Progressive Melodies


"Unitopia - The Garden review Oct. '08"

It’s really pretty interesting when a band comes totally out of the blue and surprises me.

It doesn’t happen all that often; either that means that I am hard to please or that I’m jaded. I’m not 100% sure. But I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of ‘new’ bands (i.e., only 1 or 2 albums out) that I’ve come across that have caught my ear and not let go of easily. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (in 2003) and Viima (2007) are two that come to mind immediately as bands that caught me completely unawares and hit something that made their music addicting to me.

I’m not 100% sure that Unitopia fits that bill yet, but the fact that I keep going back to their latest album, The Garden, speaks volumes.

Unitopia is an Australian sextet releasing their second album, a 2-CD set, on InsideOut Music. The press release, which I received with the album, compares the group to the Flower Kings, Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and…Men at Work?

Yeah, one of those things is not like the other. I’m not sure where they got the Men at Work angle unless it’s just because that band is also Australian, but that’s neither here nor there. Repeated listens make it hard for me to even find links to Crimson and VdGG, unless it’s the fact that all three bands have features some sax playing in their music. Nor really can I compare Unitopia to the Flower Kings…unless it’s the fact that like TFK, Unitopia draws some influence from bands like Yes and Genesis.

The music is generally pretty uplifting and bright…positive sounding music. I also hear some serious Queen bits as well…the track “Don’t Give Up Love,” despite the possibly slightly cheesy title, is filled with Queen-isms, from layered choral vocals to harmonized guitars. Mark Trueack’s voice does bear some comparison to Peter Gabriel (and perhaps Ray Wilson as well)…while not a dead ringer for Gabriel, they share a similar dark, slightly raspy lower tenor vocal range.

Unitopia tosses a lot of music at the listener on this release; the two CDs total about 101 minutes of material. Included are a pair of epics…”Journey’s Friend” is a 5-part suite that opens the second half of The Garden, while the 22-minute title track features some of the more overt Genesis bits, including a closing section that doesn’t necessarily mimic the end of “Supper’s Ready” as much as works in a similar stylistic arena.

“Journey’s Friend” maybe sounds a bit Transatlantic-ish as well…and considering that Transatlantic was intended in many ways to mine classic progressive rock styles, this may not be surprising. The heavy section some 9 minutes in, with thick, throaty almost screamed vocals and powerful orchestration, is wonderfully balanced by a pastoral section that immediately follows. The shift might be disruptive, but it’s a great sue of light and shade to create tension.

The shorter tracks have much to offer as well. I am particularly enamored of “Give and Take,” complete with lushly arranged vocals and guitar playing from Matt Williams (I am assuming) that sounds like textbook Steve Howe. I also get a feel that is similar to the material on Genesis’ Calling all Stations release (a pretty criminally underrated album, if you ask me, and perhaps fodder for a future article)…it’d not sound out of place surrounded by songs like “Uncertain Weather.”

“321” is another powerful piece…written as a tribute to the bravery of the Beaconsfield miners, Brant Webb and Todd Russell and the tragic death of fellow miner Larry Knight following the tragic mine collapse at the Beaconsfield gold mine in northern Tasmania on 25 April 2006. It’s evocative lyrically, and the music matches the mood and tension with aplomb.

Throughout the release, many things remain constant. Monty Ruggiero’s drumming is solid, while Tim Irrgang contributes some nice percussive flourishes that I can’t help but call Australian…there’s a bit of tribal/Aboriginal rhythm there that I’d like to think he adds.

Sean Timms and Matt Williams are excellent guitarists, playing with a bit of flash but keeping the song as main focus. Shireen Khemlani’s bass playing deserves special note; fluid and graceful, she’s mixed up just enough to maintain presence without distracting from the rest of the musicians. Mark Trueack, as mentioned above, is an enjoyable singer to listen to, with a delivery that is effortless and rich.

I’m impressed by Unitopia, and find The Garden to be a pretty refreshing slice of melodic, symphonic prog. Don’t let the press release sway you away…this is no Flower Kings pastiche, but a band using the same influences to create something that sounds pretty uniquely their own.
- Blogspot


"Unitopia - The Garden review"

With a cover like this you would think the latest from progressive rock band Unitopia would be too hard to handle. That is far from the truth, The Garden is a beautiful album that takes the listener on a journey they will never forget anytime soon.

This double disc release is defiantly one for the ages. Unitopia offers a unique blend of progressive rock with some symphonic parts that are incredible. If you never heard of this band then you will want to pick up everything they have to offer, The Garden is a non stop ride into a progressive sound that is easy on the ears, yet at the same time it offers everything you would have ever wanted from a progressive release.

Unitopia never saw a wide release for their first album More Than a Dream. With InsideOut Music teaming up with the band hopefully progressive rock fans will find something they have missed. The Garden is 15 tracks from a band that puts in enough emotion to power into everything, giving it that sound that is note worthy on so many accounts.

The instrumentation on this album is stunning. Words can not explain how I felt when I heard the progressive masterpieces The Garden and Journey’s Friend. These two tracks are defiantly the glue on there discs. They give you that sense like you are watching a movie right before your eyes, which is something I always look for when I am listening to a progressive release (progressive music tends to be that strong).

Lyrically this album takes a few turns that might make the sound stale. Some of the tracks on this album have emo sounding lyrics. Thankfully this doesn’t happen all the time as some tracks go more into making the listener think.

Final Verdict
Overall I think The Garden is a fantastic album. If I had one problem it was definitely the lyrics, but only at times. Everything else is top notch, making this a progressive album that you should not miss. Pick up The Garden immediately.

Rating
9.25 out of 10
- Reviewbusters


"Unitopia - The Garden review"

Progressive rock bands most times are ambitious. The Australian Unitopia is no exception to that. The Garden is a double-album with a length of more than 100 minutes.

Although this is not light music, when you take the time to listen you will discover that this is a classic progressive rock album. Think of The Flower Kings and King Crimson, but the music also reminds of Genesis and Marillion, and sometimes Toto and Kansas.

Yes, The Garden is a hotchpotch of progressive styles from the last thirty years, but Unitopia succeeded to combine all these different influences. That doesn’t make the music completely unique, but that’s simply because we heard a lot of good progressive albums in the last few years. And still The Garden is much better than the average album.

The reason to that is simple and ingenious: good songs and a great musical expertise. Eye-catcher of this band is Mark Trueack. His voice is the kind of voice you hope to hear with this music: clear, understandable, soulful and high from time to time. Trueack is the glue between the songs of The Garden. Without Trueack this band would sound very different, and I bet it wouldn’t be this good.

Of course, Trueack is not alone. The five other musicians are extremely important for this album. When Trueack really is the glue of this album, than the other musicians are the foundation. What we hear is a band which is able to do a lot of different things.

Intimate ballads, sing-along refrains and complex song structures, it’s not strange Unitopia brings back memories of Genesis in their most revolutionary period (mid seventies). It’s not expected that The Garden will do the same with the music industry the classical Genesis albums did a long time ago, but sure is that the progressive rock fans got another fine band to embrace.

Rating: 8.5
Reviewer: Ate
- Gothtronic Review


"Unitopia - The Garden review"

Australian art rock-prog band Unitopia, has released their second album "The Garden" it is a concept album and a double at that.

CD 1 " The garden"

Opens with a beautiful ballad like song, that could have been out of a Procol Harum album, even the singer sounds like Gary Brooker. Excellent stuff!!
Track 2 " The Garden" (22:35 min.) are the first of two epic tracks on this fine outing, delivering everything and anything you could ask for in modern art rock prog music !!
Track 3 “Angeliqua” a powerful track that opens with beautiful female chanting, oriental style (yes I kid you not) building up to a very strong tune with lots of breaks and varied sequences.
Track 4 “Here I Am” again a beautiful ballad (with gusto) it actually
has radio play potential ( yes it becomes an earhanger, after a few spins!!).
Track 5 “ I Wish I could fly” an amazingly lyric piece with classical music style, orchestra, acoustic guitar and a warm ambient feel to it!!
Track 6 “Inside The power” somehow reminds this reviewer of Pink Floyd in their softer mood. That’s a good thing!!

CD 2 “The Journey”

Kick’s off with the second epic on this fabulous release:
“Journeys Friend” (16.28 min.) an imaginative tune with broad strokes of musical genres, into even jazzy themes at times, broken with power chords and superb lead guitar, blended with thundering intervals…and before you know it they’re (Unitopia) into a beautiful sequence (again Procol Harum comes to mind!) It is quite amazing!!
There are many more tracks on this masterpiece (Oh yes it is!!) But hey…go buy it and find out!! It’s been a long time since I’ve heard such well trimmed, imaginative, well delivered, varied, beautiful, powerful and excellent music from ANY band!!! This is a MASTERPIECE!!
From ethnic sounding drum sequences, to Latin inspired intro’s, over beautiful themes with soaring guitar soli, imaginative sax, flute, clarinet vignettes, superb vocals (all round) to powerful themes with brilliant keyboards and power chord guitar, Unitopia has a great feel for emotion, feelings and their compositions shows just that!!
And that’s just a little taste of what to expect when you listen to this fabulous band’s second outing!!
I must say that I cant hear (the newsletter claim) any resemblance to Van Der Graaf, King Crimson or Flower Kings!!
But, what I do hear are a band that is excellent, mature, unique and as of this moment (in my honest opinion) are in the BIG league of progressive/art rock bands today!! Unique and Utopia spells: UNITOPIA!!!
This superb concept album (and band) MUST be on the top list of absolutely brilliant newcomers/best act in 2008!!
I LOVE THIS BAND, their music on this album are awesome!! Way to go guys, I cant wait for the next outing!!
OH, great cover art too!!
- Progplanet


"Bill Knispel review"

Unitopia is an Australian sextet releasing their second album, a 2-CD set, on InsideOut Music. The press release, which I received with the album, compares the group to the Flower Kings, Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and…Men at Work? Yeah, one of those things is not like the other. I’m not sure where they got the Men at Work angle unless it’s just because that band is also Australian, but that’s neither here nor there. Repeated listens make it hard for me to even find links to Crimson and VdGG, unless it’s the fact that all three bands have features some sax playing in their music. Nor really can I compare Unitopia to the Flower Kings…unless it’s the fact that like TFK, Unitopia draws some influence from bands like Yes and Genesis. The music is generally pretty uplifting and bright…positive sounding music. I also hear some serious Queen references scattered throughout as well.

Throughout the release, many things remain constant. Monty Ruggiero’s drumming is solid, while Tim Irrgang contributes some nice percussive flourishes that I can’t help but call Australian…there’s a bit of tribal/Aboriginal rhythm there that I’d like to think he adds. Sean Timms and Matt Williams are excellent guitarists, playing with a bit of flash but keeping the song as main focus. Shireen Khemlani’s bass playing deserves special note; fluid and graceful, she’s mixed up just enough to maintain presence without distracting from the rest of the musicians. Mark Trueack, as mentioned above, is an enjoyable singer to listen to, with a delivery that is effortless and rich.

I’m impressed by Unitopia, and find The Garden to be a pretty refreshing slice of melodic, symphonic prog. Don’t let the press release sway you away…this is no Flower Kings pastiche, but a band using the same influences to create something that sounds pretty uniquely their own.

One Day
The Garden opens quietly, piano and vocals floating along gently like a summer’s breeze. Small amounts of bird sound are interspersed here and there, only adding to the pastoral, summery feel. Mark Trueack’s vocals are impressive here…while a few moments feel almost strained, the tension adds to the powerful delivery. “One Day” is a brief two minutes in length, but it sets the stage nicely, almost like the prologue of a theatrical performance.

The Garden
The 22-minute title track features some of the more overt Genesis bits, including a closing section that doesn’t necessarily mimic the end of “Supper’s Ready” as much as works in a similar stylistic arena. Percussion, nature sounds, flutes and wind sounds open the piece, which shifts through a plethora of moods and styles, befitting a progressive rock epic. Off-hand references to Hieronymus Bosch certainly don’t hurt from a lyrical standpoint, and the band acquits themselves with ease, keeping the track interesting throughout its duration.

Angeliqua
“Angeliqua” follows a similar formula to the preceding track; it opens gently, this time with female vocals and quiet guitar replacing the flutes and percussion parts that open “The Garden.” Never fear though…the song bursts forth about two minutes in with loads of tasty, crunchy guitar and a powerful rhythm section driving things. By the time Trueack’s vocals kick in, the song has settled back into a pleasant mid-tempo groove, and it moves toward slightly more traditional "power ballad" territory. Having said this, there is some of the nastiest slide guitar this side of “Swinging the Axe” by echolyn or “In My Time of Dying” from Led Zeppelin spicing things up. “Angeliqua” is a nice enough song, but I feel a combination of lyrical lightness and an almost overabundance of variety musically weaken the track somewhat.

Here I Am
This piece sees the band expanding on the piano ballad style they explored on the album opener, this time in more of a band setting. This is a great pop song, and I say that with no derisiveness…in a perfect world, this would be getting airplay on major radio stations across the country. Had Yes or Genesis released this in 1983, it’d likely have been a top 40 hit. Trueack’s vocals are sublime, the band’s playing is perfect for the song, and the composition simply shines. This is a brilliant piece of songwriting, and shows Unitopia equally adept at crafting expansive, multi-part epics and concise numbers where the song itself is of utmost importance.

I Wish I Could Fly
The album shifts back to a slightly more epic feel with “I Wish I could Fly,” a two-part mini-opus clocking in just under 7 minutes. The piece is filled with gentle orchestration that swells and ebbs, building to brief climaxes before slowly diminishing. There’s some gorgeous finger picked classical guitar on display here, with synth backing creating an almost English pastoral feel. The flute work here is wonderful, and the song begins to feel more Italian (i.e., PFM or Banco for points of comparison) than English. The second half of the track, separately indexed, arises quickly from this gentle instrumental, with organ and restrained guitar musically evoking the flight-based lyrical themes. This piece is almost too precious sounding…so fragile it might break. The fact that the band doesn’t disrupt this mood speaks volumes for their skill.

Inside the Power
The first half of the album closes with “Inside the Power.” The piece opens insistently, heavily orchestrated and with goose bump-raising guitar work. Vocal sections feature stripped back arrangement, with just bass and drums/percussion under much of it. I love the contrast from the more mid-tempo verse sections and the go for broke bridge/choruses, where the band lets loose and shows what they can do with light and shade. If the album opened quietly, Unitopia makes sure that the first part closes with a bit of a bang.

Journey's Friend
”Journey’s Friend” is a 5-part suite that opens the second half of The Garden. The piece sounds a bit Transatlantic-ish…and considering that Transatlantic was intended in many ways to mind classic progressive rock styles, this may not be surprising. The heavy section some nine minutes in, with thick, throaty almost screamed vocals and powerful orchestration, is wonderfully balanced by a pastoral section that immediately follows. The shift might be disruptive, but it’s a great use of light and shade to create tension.

Give and Take
I am particularly enamored of “Give and Take,” complete with lushly arranged vocals and guitar playing from Matt Williams (I am assuming) that sounds like textbook Steve Howe. I also get a feel that is similar to the material on Genesis’ Calling all Stations release…it’d not sound out of place surrounded by songs like “Uncertain Weather.”

When I'm Down
The band continues a short series of briefer tracks with “When I’m Down,” coming in at 4:47. The piece opens with a sample from an old RCA radio commercial, followed by distant, over the telephone style vocals. Acoustic guitar then comes in, underpinning Trueack’s vocals. The song itself is more stripped back, more acoustic, showing another side of the band entirely. It feels and sounds folksier and bluesier than previous pieces, and it’s interesting to see the group working in this style. I’m not sure a full album of tracks like this would be a stellar idea, but here the added variety helps.

This Life
“This Life” is another highlight shorter piece, with an urgency and insistence in the delivery and playing that really impresses. Shireen Khemlani’s bass playing is in fine shape here, pulsing, high enough in the mix to really assert a presence that enriches the band’s already solid sound. There’s still plenty of orchestration throughout, and the almost staccato-sounding string parts help build tension. Fans of vocal interplay will find much to enjoy here as well, as layers of choral vocals create walls of sound. A tasty guitar solo (which turns into a duet with sax) two and a half minutes in is just the cherry on top.

Love Never Ends
Back to ballad territory., “Love Never Ends” is a sweet piece with gorgeous male/female vocals, acoustic guitar, and the ever present lush orchestration throughout. The piece almost has a cinematic feel to it…I could easily see this piece being played over some romantic scene in a movie, and for those of you in a fulfilling relationship, I will wager the lyrics really hit close to home.

So Far Away
This composition begins right after the final intonation of the title words from “Love Never Ends,” and in some ways feels like an extended coda. The piano work here is excellent, with fluid grace and occasional bursts of notes creating sheets of sound that reverberate around the open, airy mix. This is a side of the band I’d love to see explored more, and hopefully future releases will feature more extended examples of this style of play. It’s as distant a difference from the previous song as could possibly be done, yet the two pieces flow so easily that one is tempted to consider it a mini-epic itself.

Don't Give Up Love
The track “Don’t Give Up Love,” despite the possibly slightly cheesy title, is filled with Queen-isms, from layered choral vocals to harmonized guitars. Mark Trueack’s voice does bear some comparison to Peter Gabriel (and perhaps Ray Wilson as well). While not a dead ringer for Gabriel, they share a similar dark, slightly raspy lower tenor vocal range.

321
“321” is another powerful piece…written as a tribute to the bravery of the Beaconsfield miners, Brant Webb and Todd Russell and the tragic death of fellow miner Larry Knight following the disastrous collapse at the Beaconsfield gold mine in northern Tasmania on 25 April 2006. It’s evocative lyrically, and the music matches the mood and tension with aplomb.
- Music Street Journal


"Alex Henderson review (AMG)"

Many rock historians have said that progressive rock's bloated excesses were one of the main reasons why the punk movement was an absolute necessity in the 1970s. To be sure, prog rock had its excesses back then -- actually, prog rock (like prog metal) still has plenty of them in the 21st century -- but when it wasn't too self-indulgent for its own good, prog rock gave listeners some true classics, including Yes' Fragile and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here.

Greatly influenced by British groups like Yes, Pink Floyd, and Genesis, Unitopia provide prog rock that is easy to absorb and doesn't allow itself to be suffocated by a sense of self-importance.

The Garden is ambitious; during the course of this two-CD set, Unitopia incorporate everything from jazz to hard rock. But the Australian prog rockers manage to avoid sounding like they are full of themselves; in fact, The Garden has a lot of heart. And at the end of the day, this 2008 release is simply a collection of very listenable songs.

Although it is best to enjoy The Garden as a whole, the individual songs can easily stand on their own. Of course, that has often been said about Fragile; many Yes fans prefer to listen to that 1971 recording from start to finish, but "Heart of the Sunrise," "Roundabout," and "Long Distance Runaround" are still meaningful if one opts to listen to those songs individually.

Similarly, Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" works perfectly well on its own even if one hasn't heard the rest of Wish You Were Here. And those artists have obviously taught Unitopia that the most substantial prog rock isn't just about ambition -- it is about honest-to-God song craft.

That isn't to say that The Garden is in a class with Fragile or Wish You Were Here, only that Yes and Pink Floyd (along with early Genesis) have been positive influences on Unitopia, whose The Garden is a respectable, nicely crafted example of what prog rock had to offer in 2008. ~ Alex Henderson, All Music Guide
- Billboard


"James McKenzie review"

'The Garden' is the second album from Adelaide progressive rock band Unitopia, following 2005's highly regarded 'More Than A Dream'. In a real coup for the band, they have secured worldwide distribution on Inside Out, the largest progressive rock label in the world and home to the likes of Spock's Beard, Flower Kings and Pain Of Salvation among many, many others, and I'm very pleased to say that the locals stack up exceptionally well in such esteemed company. A sprawling double album that is very ambitious in scope, 'The Garden' is epic, diverse, grandiose, musically brilliant, lyrically complex and just a tad self-indulgent. In short, everything a good prog rock album should be.

The centerpiece of the album is the title track. Throughout its twenty-plus minute length, this truly epic piece veers off into many directions revealing a myriad of influences including, but not confined to, The Tangent, Jethro Tull, Jadis and most notably The Flower Kings.
There are plenty of other lengthy pieces where Unitopia really stretch out and display their undoubted musical ability. Angelique ebbs and flows in mood and style from world to jazz to rock, while Journey's Friend follows a similar path to Spock's Beard circa 'The Kindness Of Strangers'. There are some excellent shorter and more conventional songs, in particular the soaring and uplifting Inside The Power, the almost progressive metal of This Life and closing track 321, a tribute to the ordeal suffered by Beaconsfield Mine disaster survivors Brant Webb and Todd Russell.

Too often, modern progressive bands are let down by a lack of decent vocals. Fortunately in Mark Trueack, Unitopia have an excellent singer who is more than capable of doing justice to the grandeur, diversity and technical brilliance of the music. A couple of flat spots on disc two notwithstanding (in particular the rather bland and repetitive When I'm Down), 'The Garden' is a marvelous and at times stunning achievement.
- DB Magazine


"Geoff Feakes/Hector Gomez reviews"

Geoff Feakes' Review
In 2006 my colleague Andy gave a positive but cautious response to More Than A Dream, the debut title from Unitopia released the previous year. It just goes to show what a difference three years can make because their second is for me one of the better releases of 2008.

Since the last album there have been a couple of personnel changes but otherwise the song writing and production partnership of Mark Trueack (vocals) and Sean Timms (keyboards, guitar) remains intact. The rest of the band comprises Matt Williams (guitar), Monty Ruggiero (drums), Shireen Khemlani (bass) and Tim Irrgang (percussion). Sax, flute and clarinet feature strongly on the album which I assume are provided by Mike Stewart whose name appears in the press release but not on my promo copy of the CD booklet.

After meeting in 1996 it apparently took Trueack and Timms eight years to record the first album whereas The Garden in comparison came together in a relatively lean three years. It’s based on a concept of sorts and binding it together is the stunning artwork by Ed Unitsky, better known for his work with The Tangent, The Flower Kings, and Manning amongst others.

Like its predecessor this release contains elements of prog, pop, rock and world music plus jazz and in the title track, psychedelic. The ambitious compositions are superbly crafted with Trueack’s warmly mature voice to the fore and instrumental support that is uniformly excellent throughout. The music is heavily orchestrated at times although I’m unsure if the same full orchestra was used as the last album but it certainly sounds suitably cinematic.

The song One Day opens disc one in understated fashion as Trueack croons his way through a gorgeous melody with a simple piano and strings backing. The title piece The Garden is for my money a contender for track of the year and is certainly the best epic length song I’ve heard in these past 12 months.

From the percussive intro with its pounding tribal drums it incorporates a variety of moods, tempos and styles with a stirring finale that’s very reminiscent of, and virtually the equal to Genesis’ triumphant conclusion to Supper’s Ready.

If the rest of the album doesn’t quite reach the same dizzy heights as the title track there’s still some excellent material contained across both discs. Angeliqua offsets engaging, radio friendly vocal sections with heavy guitar driven outbursts. A flamenco guitar break partway through is a welcome diversion.

The mid-tempo Here I Am is a fairly straightforward rock number which benefits from a memorable chorus but I Wish I Could Fly on the other hand is a far more ambitious affair. UK readers with long memories will be gratified to know that it’s not a cover of the similarly titled Keith Harris and Orville ditty!

Divided into two sections, the lush classical guitar and flute in the first half Amelia’s Dream brings to mind the acoustic duets of Steve and John Hackett.

Inside The Power could easily be described as power-pop with a compelling guitar hook taken up by full orchestra to provide a spectacular conclusion to disc one.

Disc two opens with the lengthy Journey's Friend which sees the band at their proggiest. Although song based, the rich guitar, synth, sax and organ work in the complex and strident but always melodic instrumental sections are from the same stable as The Tangent and Spock’s Beard. The only bit that jars for me is a clichéd hard-rock vocal (in the mould of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson) about halfway in which fortunately doesn’t outstay its welcome.

In contrast Give And Take is a mellow tune with smooth strings, sax and slide guitar. When I'm Down and This Life are both chorus led mainstream songs enhanced by strong and colourful instrumental work including the lyrical acoustic guitar in the former and the gritty sax solo in the latter.

Love Never Ends is a delicate classical guitar and strings ballad with sensuous female harmonies which may just be a tad too sickly sweet for some ears. The all too brief instrumental So Far Away allows Timms to show-off his classical flavoured piano chops in grandiose Rachmaninoff style.

The penultimate Don't Give Up Love is an exhilarating slice of pop-prog (if there is such a thing) that sums up the bands flamboyant approach perfectly. Beach Boys style harmonies, atmospheric strings, flashy acoustic guitar work (ala Trevor Rabin), a (very Andy Tillison) fiery synth solo and an infectious, uplifting chorus all add up to a very entertaining eight minutes.

The album ends on a more downbeat note with 321, a song dedicated to the events of 2006 when three miners in Beaconsfield, Tasmania became trapped underground following a small earthquake. The title refers to the number of hours it took for two of the men to be rescued and it’s a suitably rhythmic account with hammer like percussion and a prominent bass pattern. Trueack’s vocals are delivered with the right level of anguish and in stark contrast to his relaxed performance that opened the album 100 minutes earlier.

For many 2008 has not been an outstanding year for prog rock releases with more disappointments than there have been pleasant surprises. My personal favourite remains Camorra’s 2 CD She which brightened up the earlier part of my year and likewise this two disc release from Unitopia sees the year out in fine style.
The bands first album was described as "Prog-lite" but with The Garden, despite a wealth of other influences the sextet from Adelaide, South Australia has certainly found their progressive rock feet.

Lyrically they display a spiritual side but without the preachy sentiment associated with some Christian rock practitioners. If you suffer from winter blues then I strongly recommend you add some Aussie sunshine to your Christmas with this double delight from down under.
Hector Gomez' Review
Wait a minute... What do I know about Australian music? Let me think about it... Crowded House? Midnight Oil? INXS? Kylie Minogue?! Russell Crowe’s band!!!! Progressive rock is, of course, nowhere to be seen... Oh, hang on. I think I’ve heard some Vanishing Point tunes, but these Aussie prog metal wannabes (excuse me if that sounded too harsh, especially if you happen to perform with Vanishing Point) failed to impress me. Considering all of the above, I firmly declare Unitopia’s second album The Garden (their debut More Than A Dream was released in 2005) to be my very first experience with Australian Symphonic & Progressive Rock (ASPR?). So, prog from Australia you say? Yes indeed, and quite good I must add. Well, it always feels good when you find something new and refreshing.

Visual information is of vital importance. Before hearing a single note you get a good feeling, as the album proudly wears eye-catching Ed Unitsky (who’s designed artwork for The Tangent and The Flower Kings... more on both bands later) cover and sleeve design, very much in the vein of what he did for A Place In The Queue, but a bit more colourful; as colourful as the music. Being a double, there’s plenty of styles and moods on display.

The journey begins with One Day, a short and simple, but extremely beautiful, ballad. Only subtle keyboards and Mark Trueack’s powerful, heartfelt singing, which is very reminiscent of Peter Gabriel; there’s no need for big arrangements if it’s done with this passion and delicacy.

Anyway, don’t worry if what you need are big arrangements and bombast, for The Garden is exactly what you’re craving for: a 20 minute epic with plenty of different moods, great playing and a majestic feel overall (references to Hieronymus Bosch included). It’s the longest track on the whole album, it’s probably the best and the one that displays everything Unitopia has to offer, which is an evenly balanced mix of classic 70’s symphonic rock, 80’s neo-prog and a splash of their Australian roots.

Besides the vocals, the other distinctive element in the band is Tim Irrgang’s percussion (everything from marimbas, to congas, to cowbells...). This is particularly evident in some passages on The Garden, such as the first movement, The Garden Of Unearthly Delights, with its "dreamy forest" atmosphere, or Realization, which almost sounds like "aboriginal celebration" music (if such fascinating style exists). Elsewhere, The Garden could have been a perfect Flower Kings or The Tangent epic, save for some Marillion (guitar atmospherics) and Spock’s Beard (jazzy-fusion workouts) dashes here and there (and the grand finale, very Supper’s Ready-ish).

The remainder of CD 1 is made up of shorter tracks, which are not as good as the previous ones, but keep the listener’s interest, especially Angeliqua (when sung sounds like Angelica), a mini-epic which manages to squeeze ethereal female vocals, catchy pop, jazz fusion and prog oddities in less than 10 minutes.

Here I Am is another short ballad, but this time it builds up to reach an infectious and anthemic chorus. Amelia’s Dream and I Wish I Could Fly, though credited separately, might as well be one track, one being the instrumental prelude to the other, forming a majestic and gentle piece of music. Last track, Inside The Power, could be one of the tunes Yes never included on 90125 or Big Generator, with its catchy chorus, driving rhythm and soaring string arrangements.

CD2 is a bit weaker. Yes, we can find plenty of good ideas here, but it lacks a unique, defining song. There’s another epic, the 16 minute Journey’s Friend, which is quite good but doesn’t resist comparison with The Garden. This time, we get a more conventional sound, very reminiscent of Transatlantic, particularly All Of The Above.

Nice keyboard solos, a jazzy section, a harder edged section... lacking a bit of punch and personality, but surely more than enough for any prog head. Next song, Give And Take, is one of the best short tunes on the album, a mellow piece which wouldn’t have been out of place on Peter Gabriel’s So or Yes’ Union.

The sad thing is all remaining tracks aren’t especially memorable. When I’m Down feels somehow unfinished, This Life is quite energetic and commercial, but also trite and predictable. Love Never Ends has some beautifully haunting female vocals, but in the end lacks a bit more substance, as does So Far Away, a short and sweet instrumental ballad.

Don’t Give Up Love, the other longish track (around 8 minutes) on CD2, is probably the most Yes/Jon Anderson sounding composition on the whole album, with its optimistic message and positive sounding melodies, a mix of All Good People and late period songs such as The Messenger or In The Presence Of. Might sound a bit corny at times, but is good music indeed.

Oddly, a weak track like 321 as been chosen to conclude the album, instead of keeping this privilege for one of the longer or more dramatic songs. It’s also been released as a limited edition single, and bears a dedication to the "Beaconsfield Miners" (the title refers to the hours they spent "trapped inside the earth"). Anyway, and not unlike This Life, this is a fairly conventional rock song, perfectly catchy and perfectly forgettable.
So, what do we have in the end? A pretty decent effort from a very promising band, which could have benefited from a bit of trimming (keep most of CD1 and the best of CD2, and you get one killer 70 minute album; you could do this with virtually every double album, including all those "classics" you’re thinking about), with very solid ensemble playing (maybe only Sean Timms’ keyboards and Matt Williams’ guitars clearly stand out) and excellent string arrangements.

I suggest they let go of their more conventional pop facet, and instead further explore their tribal/aboriginal side, which in the end monopolizes The Garden’s most satisfying moments.

Conclusions:

GEOFF FEAKES : 9 out of 10
HECTOR GOMEZ : 7 out of 10
- Dutch Progressive Rock Pages


"Jeff Perkins review"

Superbly packaged both visually and musically, The Garden is indeed a place of ‘unearthly delight’.
It would be wrong to highlight any particular instrument on such a work but quite often the keyboards of Sean Timms take the music into an altogether higher place. Nicely balanced vocals from Mark Trueack are vaguely reminiscent of early Gabriel era Genesis. “The Garden” moves with such precision and momentum that it successfully locks the listener in.
If “The Garden”, with its beautifully uplifting finale, forms the centre piece to the first CD, the five part “Journey’s Friend” ignites the second. In addition there is a lot more. These includes glorious symphonic sounds, a nicely balanced use of effects and samples, jazz keys, soaring guitar solos, and atmospheric additional vocals from bass player Shireen Khemlani.
The exotic and uplifting “Angelique” is stunningly effective, as is the satisfying “Here I Am”. On the two-part “I Wish I Could Fly” they achieve something quite extraordinary. The music literally floats on air with lightness, managing to evoke a genuine sensation of flight with a sense of breezy freedom.
“Inside The Power”, does the same, in a balanced way with the final word of its title. Both of these examples illustrate how much thought and skill have gone into the album's production. “Give And Take” maintains the interest. The driving, “This Life” keeps the momentum. Whilst the tender, “Love Never Ends”, develops into something quite sublime in its mid-section.
There are subtle nods towards the early Beatles on “When I’m Down” which opens with a recording introducing the first ever stereo record from the Fab Four era. “Don’t Give Up Love” opens with some lush Brian Wilson, “In My Room” style harmony.
The scope is huge, and the result is hugely successful. If anything, this work could have been two equally pleasing albums, built separately around the central themes of both disks. Having said that, I can argue against myself by saying that, in this double format, it is best heard in one highly absorbing sitting.
This of course is how we used to rush home from the record store clutching for example, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, before immersing ourselves. Unitopia has managed to provoke a similar sense of wonder with an album that really has to be explored and deserves recognition.
- Blog Critics


Discography

More Than a Dream (2005 - Unicorn Digital)
The Garden (2008 - InsideOut Music)

Photos

Bio

Unitopia is a musical adventure comprising the vocal/song writing skill of Mark Trueack, the production/song writing/keyboard/engineering & vocal skill of Sean Timms, the guitar & vocal prowess of Matt Williams, the bass and vocal talents of Shireen Khemlani and the combined drum/percussion batteries of Jamie Jones and Tim Irrgang.

Unitopia endeavors to draw from the heart and soul of the listener thought provoking topics such as environmental awareness, political and social upheaval, media misrepresentation, the hectic pace of life and human relationships in a positive and uplifting light.

Using progressive rock as a framework, Unitopia’s music includes elements of world, classical, jazz, heavy rock and groove.

Unitopia began when a mutual friend introduced Mark and Sean after realizing the two had similar musical tastes. In late1996 the duo began work on a track which was to become 'Take Good Care'. This formulated into a prolific and exciting song writing partnership that culminated in the completion of their debut album 'More Than A Dream'.

Mark and Sean gathered some of Australia's finest musicians to contribute to the ‘More Than a Dream’ project, including conductor/arranger Timothy Sexton and the Adelaide Art Orchestra, Pat Schirippa, Constantine Delo, Bradley Polain and Ian ‘Polly’ Politis thus ensuring the musicianship on their debut CD was of the highest standard.

In Oct 2005, Unitopia independently launched ‘More Than a Dream’ to a sell out audience at The Cavern Club, Adelaide and shortly thereafter supported Aussie icon Daryl Braithwaite.

Another highlight was performing at the Norwood Food and Wine Festival.

In March 2006, Canadian label Unicorn Records re-released ‘More Than a Dream’ internationally. This pressing and distribution deal introduced Unitopia to the ever increasing world progressive rock market.

Realizing the need for a consistent team of musicians to perform both live and in the studio, Mark and Sean recruited the specialist talents of some of Adelaide’s finest instrumentalists. Matt Williams - guitar/vocals, Monty Ruggiero - drums, Shireen Khemlani - bass and Tim Irrgang - percussion complete the Unitopia line up.

With Unitopia now a fully fledged band, Sean and Mark started writing in earnest new material which would eventually become ‘The Garden’.

One of these new songs, written in early 2007, ‘321’ is a touching tribute to the courage, ordeal and eventual rescue of the Beaconsfield miners. Whilst in Adelaide, Brant Webb and Todd Russell sang backing vocals on the track which gained nationwide exposure including a segment on 60 minutes. In May 07, with support and funding from the West Tamar Council, the band launched the single ‘321’ at the one year anniversary memorial in Beaconsfield, Tasmania to an audience of nearly 3,000 people.

In Feb. 08, Unitopia signed a world wide publishing deal with Shock Music Publishing.

In July 2008, Unitopia was honored by being included on the CPR Volume 3 compilation CD. Their track ‘Lives Go ‘Round’ from ‘More Than a Dream’ is the opening song on the release. They are joined by some of progressive rock’s finest artists including Phil Keaggy, Everlasting Arms and Ted Leonard.

In August 2008, Unitopia signed a 3 album deal with InsideOut Music, the leading progressive rock/metal record company in the world.

On November 18th, 2008, InsideOut Music, Germany released Unitopia’s 2nd CD, ‘The Garden’ internationally to critical acclaim. A double CD with 15 tracks and over 100 minutes of music, ‘The Garden’ has firmly established Unitopia as one of the premiere progressive rock bands in the world.

Unitopia are currently in the studio writing and demoing tracks for their 3rd album ‘Artificial’. They have also been booked to play at RosFest in May 2010, one of North America’s largest progressive rock festivals.