Self released [Release Date: 25.06.14]
Given the lineage of great progressive bands from Scandinavia and the form of progressive rock music that tends to be their stock in trade – think Katatonia, Opeth, Beardfish and their brooding melancholia punctuated with furious rifferama – I was expecting more of the same from A Secret River.
How wrong can you be?
Hailing from southern Sweden, ASR have done a reverse-ferret on their debut album ‘Colours Of Solitude’ which, despite its somewhat melancholy title, is a beautifully mellow, uplifting piece of work.
Essentially neo-prog in the vein of early Hogarth-era Marillion (whose fans will find much to like here), lush vocal harmonies rub shoulders with intricate, multilayered sounds and outstanding, but never flashy, guitar work to produce a genuinely life-affirming tracklist.
The influences are many and varied. Beside Marillion you can inevitably detect a bit of Yes here a little Genesis there, but there’s also a smidgeon of jazz here and there, a snatch of J S Bach and, dare I say it on the GRTR website, a cursory nod to er, Coldplay…there, I’ve said it.
Eight tracks in all and things get underway with the scene-setting delicate piano riff of ‘Blinding Light’ – one of the many highlights.
This gives way to the chiming guitar intro of ‘No Way To Say Goodbye’ which, with its myriad of genre changes from rock to jazz to fusion pushes itself forward as the album’s standout.
Every track has its moments – the Marillionesque staccato guitar of ‘Starbomb’, the aforementioned Bach keyboards of the title track (although I couldn’t help but recall Kenny Everett’s mime artist sketches here), and there’s some great guitar work, acoustic and electric, on ‘Are You Coming With Me?’.
But it’s the whole album that dazzles – not just with the musicianship (which is outstanding throughout) but the feeling that it invites the listener in and then wraps said listener in the warm glow of its many charms.
OK, the lyrics are occasionally a bit twee, yes, there is a distinct lack of risk-taking and granted, it’s not breaking any new ground, but as a collection of classic melodic progressive rock it’s just about peerless.
Review by Alan Jones
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