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(68:57; Unicorn Digital)
‘Neither In Heaven’ was the second album from Canadian band Huis, following on from 2014’s ‘Despite Guardian Angels’. That was released as quintet, but in the intervening time keyboard player Pascal Lapierre departed, so for this album the guys brought in four different keyboard players to help out. The rest of the line-up is the same, namely Sylvain Descoteaux (vocals, keyboards, piano, vocal arrangements), Michel St-Pere (guitar, keyboards, mixing), Michel Joncas (bass, bass pedals, keyboards, backing vocals) and William Regnier (drums, percussion, keyboards and acoustic guitar). I really enjoyed the debut album, but this album unfortunately arrived for review while I was stuck in the bowels of compiling my books, so was relegated to the “will review later” pile. That pile is still way too big, but the arrival of a new album in 2019 provided the requisite kick I needed, so finally I am writing about it some three years after I first got it. Boy have I been missing out. I have long been a fan of Michel’s guitar playing, first coming across Mystery more than 20 years ago, and following their career with interest ever since. Here he does allow himself to riff when the time is right, but never to the detriment to the music, and it is the combination of lush and sumptuous arrangements and wonderful melodies that makes this a very special album indeed. Symphonic neo prog with real balls and no wimping out, but generally carried along on a wave of held-down keyboard chords, some real in your face bass (with some wonderful diverse techniques, I could listen to a track of just isolated Michel Joncas for hours), string drums, real guitars and then at the forefront of this we have the wonderful vocals of Sylvain. This is prog as a comfort blanket, cuddly and warming, keeping the listener safe from the rest of the world. But just when there is the faint possibility of it turning into something twee with too much sugar then Michel just opens up again to remind us that whatever style of music they are playing, at heart they are a rock band. Just listen to the instrumental “Insane” to get an idea of what I mean, only 5,5 minutes long it is a fine example of control, passion, restraint and bombast, and then they follow it up with the far more delicate “Even Angels Sometimes Fall” which allows Sylvain to show us just what he can do, yet also contains some simply superb drum fills. There are times when I am reminded of mid-Seventies Genesis, particularly with the keyboards, and the result is a very special album indeed which is well worth investigating.
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