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TRACK LIST: 1. The Picture Slave 5:00 2. De Profundis 12:37 3. Cardinal Red 6:35 4. Spiral Bound 4:58 5. Chovihani Rise 23:51 6. Surface Tension 13:18 All tracks: by Thieves' Kitchen. LINE-UP: Amy Darby - vocals Phil Mercy - guitars Wolfgang Kindl - keyboards Mark Robotham - drums Andy Bonham - basses Produced & engineered by Thieves' Kitchen.
Prolusion. Thieves' Kitchen is back with "Shibboleth" (Hebrew), which is the third album by the band. Here are links to the reviews of both of their previous albums: >"Head" (2000) and >"Argot" (2001).
Synopsis. In most of the Thieves' Kitchen-related reviews I've read the band's music is defined as Neo, which is very questionable, to say the least. I have nothing against an honest Neo, which often serves novice Prog lovers in their development, but this sub-genre and Thieves' Kitchen's creation have absolutely nothing in common. Just listen to how thoughtfully the band builds the arrangements: they're always intricate and non-stop, regardless of whether a vocalist sings at the moment or not, and there are neither rectilinear rhythms, nor cycled themes, nor anything else related to accessibility. Furthermore, unlike many other contemporary performers, these Englishmen were able to find their own, definitely original, and truly modern style and sound right from the start of their activity and, thus, isolate themselves from comparisons with other bands. While continuing moving forward within the framework of style they've once chosen, on "Shibboleth" the band looks stronger than ever before. The newcomer Amy Grant has kept Simon Boy's unique way of singing, so the amazingly effective contrast between 'lazy', as if laid back vocals and untiringly intensive instrumental parts (done with the continuous use of complex meters and stop-to-play movements) is still among the hallmarks of the band's sound. The predominant stylistics of the album is a very cohesive confluence of Modern Symphonic Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion. In a pure form, it is presented on The Picture Slave, De Profundis, and Cardinal Red (1 to 3), while Chovihani Rise and Surface Tension (5 & 6) contain also heavy elements in their structures. In other words, these two are about a blend of Symphonic Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion with distinct elements of Prog-Metal. Amy's singing to the accompaniment of passages of acoustic guitar and piano is presented on Spiral Bound (4), which is an amazing Symphonic Art-Rock ballad and is the only track here, which is free of elements of Jazz-Fusion. With the brave insertion of sounds of Mellotron, Hammond organ, and woodwinds into the musical palette of each of the long tracks here (2, 5, & 6), the total duration of which is just about 50 minutes, the band took another decisive step towards the further development of their primordially original style. The highly innovative formula "Jazz-Fusion + Mellotron" is born and it works! Especially effective it shows its worth on the 23-minute Chovihani Rise, which is a new word in the world of 'sidelong' and related pieces. This song sharply stands out against a background of thousands of the other epics by hundreds of the other contemporary progressive bands and, unlike them, has nothing in common with the seventies' classics. So, it turns out that a distinctly original and pronouncedly modern progressive Jazz-Fusion and the very specific sound of the legendary Mellotron don't contradict each other.
Conclusion. Indeed, it is time to finally reject standards laid thirty years ago and create new forms of Progressive Rock - yes, just like Thieves' Kitchen, who, whatever one would say, perform a much more original music than that by Anglagard, Anekdoten, and lots of the other contemporary bands with and without Mellotron in their equipment. In defiance with its title, the music on the album isn't a shibboleth and doesn't contain any traces of remnants of the past, so you shouldn't have any shibboleths about it. As for me, I declare "Shibboleth" the Album of the Month (September).
VM: October 3, 2003
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