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(48:28, ‘Back Water’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dunwich 6:20 2. Mustard Men 7:12 3. Bartholomew's Merman 5:04 4. Children of the Crown 9:12 5. A Meeting at the Red Barn 2:23 6. The Fate of Old Mother Orvis 18:11 LINEUP: Ian Fitch – guitars, bass, mandolin; xylophone; auto harp; vocals Karl Mallett – bass, guitars; auto harp; vocals Simon Green – drums, percussion With: Steve Mann – keyboards
Prolusion. THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND (The Kings from now on, by your royal grace) is the name of the English group whose self-titled debut CD from 2005 is reviewed here. “The Fate of Old Mother Orvis” is their sophomore release and consists of six tracks, five of which are instrumentals. That’s how things can turn out to be when a press kit is scanty in information. One may wonder whether the band’s goal is to get rid of the word “future” sometime in ‘our’ future or they mean they’ll get the implied status during their next incarnation on this earthly plane.
Analysis. Most of this recording sounds very much like a Pink Floyd space rock model and is overall indeed a simplified take on the collective image of the legend’s work in the first half of the ‘70s. The corresponding connection is evident in the songwriting and arranging, in both Ian Fitch and Karl Mallett’s playing (both of whom handle electric, acoustic and bass guitars, the music being dominated by the first two of these instruments) as well as in their singing, from which it logically follows that the sole track with vocals, Mustard Men, is especially striking in this respect, though otherwise it’s a kind of twin brother of its predecessor, disc opener Dunwich. While the space metal element that signifies the (meaty) heaviness of the band’s sound on their first disc is generally lost here, these compositions at least include a number of edgy, hard rock-ish guitar riffs-based arrangements, alternating those with plainer musical landscapes, and so revealing some pleasing contrasts in dynamics, texture and coloration. It’s not a case of talking of any distinct shifts in tempo or theme here (for instance, the first two moves of the song are repeated four times running), but nevertheless any more or less vivid transitions can only be found on these two. Otherwise the contrast only exists in the sonic department of compositions, such as on the other two Pink Floyd-style pieces, Bartholomew's Merman (the first third of which down to the smallest details repeats the final movement of Welcome to the Machine) and the title track that lasts for 18+ minutes, in the course of which the Kings are as if trying to convert Echoes into something much more polished, with a series of synthesizer effects at their most ‘eclectic’. Instead of more frequently changing their musical course or at least approaching a theme from different angles, the band often plays very straight, just both slowly and steadily (hypnotically!) raising the power of their sound, which finally results in a sort of sonic explosion, creating an illusion of what we normally have in mind as a culmination of the preceding musical events. The 9-minute Children of the Crown, while developing from an English-meets-pagan folk tune to something Arabic to what is the essence of this release, is my least favorite piece here, because the three themes that it’s made up of, though different in style, are all flat and overextended. Contrary to that track, Meeting at the Red Barn is definitely the winner: it’s reasonably short (2:30), besides which the interplay between three guitars there is marked with a sign of originality. Keyboards by producer Steve Mann are used sparingly, and most of the texturally thin arrangements (there are plenty of such on the disc) lack those in my opinion. Only Simon Green’s drumming impresses me everywhere it is, and I regret that he relatively rarely gets a chance to demonstrate all his skills.
Conclusion. For the sake of justice it must be said that, while sounding like an average version of Pink Floyd, the Kings somehow manage to manifest some qualities that typify their mentors, to put it briefly. The majority of themes on “The Fate of Old Mother Orvis” are well thought-out, and it’s only because they’re too often overextended that most of the tracks come across as sweeping ballads. In the end, the Kings’ latest offering should be a dainty dish for all not too fastidious fans of Pink Floyd-style music, and I won’t be surprised at all if it will have a solid commercial success.
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