LEGACY PILOTS (feat Styx, Marillion, Arena members & more) – Helix (2023)

LEGACY PILOTS (feat Styx, Marillion, Arena members & more) - Helix (2023) - full

Lead by German multi-instrumentalist Frank Us, LEGACY PILOTS is one of the most original progressive bands from the scene, offering an enormous musical bandwidth ranging from rock&pop, AOR to classic rock without forgetting its roots of prog rock.
We were pleasantly surprised by their previous album featured at 0dayrox, and now 2023 LEGACY PILOTS are presenting a new opus, “Helix“. There’s some major star-power supporting this album, which is telling as to the quality herein: vocalists John Mitchell (Arena, Frost*, Lonely Robot), Jake Livgren (Proto-Kaw), guitarist Steven Rothery (Marillion), drummers Todd Sucherman (Styx) and Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, Mike Keneally), bassist Pete Trewavas (Marillion, Transatlantic, Kino), and more.

‘Piloted’ by Frank Us and a few key house musicians, the band has a very strong foundation in their own songwriting and performance. Still, they rely heavily on an A-list of guest stars throughout the album. Although that might come off as disingenuous, in this context it totally works.
The core musicians are excellent, the writing is solid, and the guest artists take the proceedings to truly stellar heights.

We start off with none other than John Mitchell who co-writes and sings on the first two songs. “True Spirit” carries a catchy trademark Mitchell chorus but it’s nice to hear him singing a song not completely his own, as it steers the song away from some of his regular cliches. That is even more true of “The Even Chance”, an atmospheric ballad that is one of the album highlights and includes a Mitchell guitar solo as good measure.

“A Sense of Hope” follows up with lead vocals offered by the phenomenal bassist Lars Slowak (hard rockers LionCage) whose skilled playing fuels much of the album. The complex social issues addressed by the lyrics are matched by the explosion of Us’ keyboards and the fury of drum hits from Sucherman who is a total beast on his kit.
I didn’t really expect anyone to be able to match (or dare I say, surpass) Minnemann, but Sucherman is up for the challenge. Truly, the drumming on this album alone is worth the price of admission.

Jake Livgren (nephew of the great Kerry Livgren) takes over vocals for the next section of the album, impressing time and time again with his masterful skill, tone and range in vocal attack.
“A Little Differently” stands up for love being expressed between humans regardless of their gender orientation. The music is a little more smooth AOR-styled than the rest of the album but it completely succeeds as such and would have sat comfortably alongside any major hits from the 70s or 80s by bands like Toto or Styx. Livgren’s voice is right up there with the giants from that era.

Next, Livgren gets to stretch out on the eight-part suite “re-sponse” which is the centerpiece of the album. Again, Sucherman wow’s the listener at every turn with his inventive drumming which he unbelievably laid down in one take. Part II “The Inner Battlefield” is the choicest moment in this epic, with a fantastic vocal from Livgren and a sublime solo from Steven Rothery. Again, worth the price of admission right there.
With Us’ piano and keyboards driving several of the sections and Slowak’s bass offering compelling coloring and rhythm in its own right, there’s no lack of musical muscle to keep the listener engaged throughout this excellent 17 minute journey.

“Colors & Light” offers a palette cleanser after that lengthy epic, a mellow moment of reflection without any percussion. Main man Us takes on the lead vocals for this one, a revelation given that he carries a David Sylvian vibe in his tone and delivery. Seems a shame that he isn’t singing more on his own album but who can complain given that Mitchell and Livgren are on the mic?
An instrumental foray follows, “So Nice To Be Here” with Minnemann and Trewava laying down the monstrous groove over hypnotic scales played on keys & guitar by Us. A final mini-epic closes the album, “Exploring My DNA” which is the closest Us strays to ELP territory, especially in the “3rd Impression” with his keyboards. Again Minnemann goes to town and who are we to argue?

The wide range of guests – especially vocalists – enriches ”Helix”; each piece is so well executed that it’s hard to find fault. This is an album packed with top tier performances, songwriting and production.
What’s more, many of these guests – and others – have appeared on previous albums, establishing Legacy Pilots as a co-creative collective rather than a band in the traditional sense. A what a great crew it is.
HIGHLY Recommended


01 – True Spirit (feat. John Mitchell & Marco Minnemann)
02 – The Even Chance (feat. John Mitchell & Todd Sucherman)
03 – A Sense of Hope (feat. Todd Sucherman & Lars Slowak)
04 – A Little Differently (feat. Marco Minnemann & Jake Livgren)
05 – Prologue (feat. Todd Sucherman & Frank Us)
06 – The Inner Battlefield (feat. Todd Sucherman, Steven Rothery & Jake Livgren)
07 – Tactical Measures (feat. Todd Sucherman, Frank Us & Lars Slowak)
08 – Silent Eyes (feat. Todd Sucherman & Jake Livgren)
09 – The Human Being (feat. Todd Sucherman & Jake Livgren)
10 – Return of the Molecules (feat. Todd Sucherman)
11 – Let the World Know (feat. Todd Sucherman & Jake Livgren)
12 – Epilogue (feat. Todd Sucherman & Lars Slowak)
13 – Colors & Light
14 – So Nice to be here (feat. Marco Minnemann & Pete Trewavas)
15 – Exploring my DNA First Impression (feat. M. Minnemann & Pete Trewavas)
16 – Exploring my DNA Second Impression
17 – Exploring my DNA Third Impression (feat. M. Minnemann & Pete Trewavas)

Frank Us – keyboards, guitars, vocals, bass & percussion
John Mitchell (Arena, Frost*, It Bites, Lonely Robot) – vocals, guitar
Jake Livgren (Proto-Kaw) – vocals
George Hahn (Finally George) – vocals
Steven Rothery (Marillion) – guitars
Todd Sucherman (Styx) – drums
Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, Mike Keneally) – drums
Pete Trewavas (Marillion, Transatlantic, Kino) – bass
Lars Slowak (LionCage) – bass, vocals



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