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(68:37; Progrock Records)
2010 saw the band back with their fifth studio album, alongside yet more significant line-up changes. Guitarist and co-founder Rowen Poole, plus percussionist John Tallent were back, alongside keyboard player James Waugaman (who also provides vocals) who had debuted on the last album, as had drummer Scot Harvey who last time had played on just one track but this time was a full-time member of the band. The line-up was completed by new singer Ashley Peer and new bassist Roman Propenko. It is interesting to compare the number of reviews for this album on PA as opposed to the others, due in no small part I am sure by now being signed to a label who would send out promos (although strangely I didn’t get this although I was working with PRR at the time), plus also due to the change in the band’s approach. This time around we have a full-blown concept album, containing nineteen songs which generally run into each other, so it feels like one continual piece of music. As well as sound effects there has been quite a shift in the musical direction, with Rowen letting James come far more to the fore, the result being something which musically is far more symphonic and less heavy than previously, with instruments such as glockenspiel being used effectively, along with clarinet. There are far more lengthy instrumental passages and less concentration on the vocals, and while James has a theatrical style to his voice the real presence here is Ashley with a wonderfully controlled soprano, and her choral entrance to the piece is simply beautiful. This is an album which demands both careful and repeated listening as it is only with time that one really gets the complexity and breadth of styles within this. There are some wonderfully dated synth leads while Rowen’s guitar can often be found underpinning the overall sound, rarely allowing himself the luxury of throwing out some power chords or lead licks. It sounds as if this is destined for the stage as opposed to “just” an album, and I am sure I am missing some things by not having that visual element. It is a very different release to the previous album, in so many ways, and I find it quite hard to compare the two as musically they have headed in quite a different direction. There is also a much bigger focus on male lead vocals, something they had started on the previous album, yet to me their music felt better suited to a female lead. I would have liked to have heard more from both Rowen and Ashley, combined with being able to actually see them perform this. This is a considerable undertaking, but personally I would have preferred to have seen a more logical continuation from the last album as opposed to something which is so far removed.
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