The Mighty Bard. They play prog rock. They hail from Aylesbury.

All hail the new Gods of Market Square Heroism!

Well, not quite, although there are points during this new album’s magnum opus, Guarded Secret, where lovers of Script For A Jester’s Tear might just find a little smirk creeping across the face. But for the most part TMB purvey a melodic, wide-ranging prog that’s thankfully rooted in pleasant musicality rather than the need to churn out ten-minute-plus epics on the hour. This is a band that’s pretty comfortable in it’s own skin – and pretty adept musically too – and they take that confidence and ability and meld them into a thoroughly enjoyable fifty six minute journey.

New vocalist Benj has the quintessential latterday Brit prog voice; seemingly devoid of influence yet pliable enough to complement the music through it’s full range of moods and colours, he’s a quiet achiever who meets the music halfway and facilitates it’s transformation on tracks like standout Compound The Problem into something rather special. They are an unprepossessing lot on the face of it, yet there are times during Beyond The Gate when you take a step back and realise they are producing something really rather good indeed.

Musically the band is, of course, as tight as the proverbial. The album’s longest track, Secret Garden (okay, there are a couple of ten-minute-plus epics here…), is an absolute tour de force of lithe n’lissom musicianship, and sees the band, propelled by one of the better rhythm sections you’ll come across – Tom Mears and Mark Cadman take a bow – flit across an absolute atlas full of soundscapes across it’s dozen minutes of quietly assured brilliance. Mark Parker‘s Violins float in and out of focus, bringing the mighty Kansas to mind for a second before Neil Cockle‘s majestic keys take the ear on a voyage across might archly be said to resemble topographic oceans of lusciousness… And I haven’t even mentioned Dave Clarke yet…

Clarke is a fine, lyrical guitarist in the best Hackett/Rothery tradition, and it’s the tasteful hues of his playing that bring the whole palette together. That said, you never feel any one member of the band ever tries to outshine here as the band pull together magnificently to deliver what stands as one of the most satisfying, complete albums to find it’s way into the Sentinel Daily inbox thus far in 2023. Well worth a listen, even if you don’t particularly count yourself as a fan of prog rock usually.

Beyond The Gate is out now.