Originally published in Classic Rock Presents Prog, Issue 20.
Australian Ben Craven seems determined to bracket his work as “cinematic progressive rock”, adding: “If Pink Floyd had recorded the soundtrack to Star Wars it might sound something like this”. Such a description may not – if we’re being honest – be naturally tempting, but as there are no tales of squeaking Ewoks or vaporising Death Stars, and Craven’s work has more similarities with Yes than John Williams, it’s wise to ignore that slightly misleading claim.
Great & Terrible Potions is instead a wonderfully grandiose and timeless album, and with Craven performing all the various parts, it’s also a true solo recording. Where similar albums often come across as self-obsessed and overworked, Craven has carefully constructed the material into a luscious, hour-long slab of thoughtfully shaped melodies. The instrumentals Aquamarine and The Conjurer showcase his expert musicianship and compositional talents, and although they do owe a heavy debt to the 70s prog pioneers, Craven still manages to stamp his own idiosyncrasies on to the material.
Vocally, he’s also strong, and the splendour of the title track and No Specific Harm leave you wondering if by dropping the occasional over retrospective glances, Craven may have an opportunity to become the ‘next’ Steven Wilson.