www.touchstonemusic.co.uk 2-DVD/CD [Release date 28.07.14]
The history of Touchstone almost parallels that of GRTR!. They are a band we’ve watched develop from small beginnings in 2003, via their debut album in 2007, and since that time they have consolidated their standing as the darlings of the prog-metal cognoscenti.
This double DVD is an update of the band’s ‘Live In The USA’ (2010), a recording of their gig at the Robin 2, West Midlands in October 2013 when they featured almost exclusively the new album ‘Oceans Of Time’ (complemented by an audio CD) and – from 2010 – their opening set at the inaugural High Voltage event in London.
The latest gig reflects the band’s growing confidence, not least vocalist Kim “Elkie” Seviour whose role has grown in stature. The High Voltage set is a nice keepsake for fans, historical rather than a “must-see”, perhaps notable for the appearance of their mentor John Mitchell for a version of ‘Mad World’.
When reviewing Touchstone for us at High Voltage in 2010, Joe Geesin described them as prog with power metal elements. As time has gone on, the band have upped the “metal” quotient and become more mainstream hard rock, albeit with prog influences.
If there is a criticism of these live recordings: as with the USA set, the live versions don’t add much to the original recordings and possibly at times expose the band’s weaknesses. The plodding ‘Spirit Of The Age’ reveals somewhat trite lyrics and Paul “Moo” Moorghen’s cajoling – “Come on, get your hands up!” – suggests the crowd may also have needed stirring. In fairness, maybe this was as much to do with the audience’s unfamiliarity with the material as the album had only been out a few weeks.
There is no doubt great musicianship on show (especially drummer Henry Rogers who is like a younger Ian Mosley) and a feeling that they could perhaps stretch out a little. The band appear to have decreased the vocal interplay between Rob Cottingham and Kim Seviour that was a feature of the earlier albums and their ‘Wintercoast’ and ‘Shadow’ themes and which – to some ears – could appear a little “naff”.
And, to be greedy, you would expect that for a band who now have four studio albums under their belt there would be more “killer tracks” – like the excellent ‘Strange Days’ – to punctuate the setlist. Although, I have to say, ‘Contact’ comes close.
Overall, this is a great value release for fans, with the bonus of a five track EP with the first 500 copies which features the unreleased ‘Suffer The Little Children’ as well as demo versions for the current studio album, and the High Voltage disc also includes a “making of” ‘Oceans Of Time’ which gives a little insight to their creative process although it doesn’t quite clear up why the album – and the band – is more guitar-driven than previously. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Touchstone Live 2014
Summer’s End Festival, Chepstow – 26-28 September
The Borderline, London – December 12
The Robin, Bilston – December 14
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