Self-released [Release date: 16.06.15]
Over the years, Canada has produced relatively few bands that have made any sort of impact on the world of progressive rock.
If you put to one side Rush, Saga and, from the very early days, Klaatu, you would be hard pressed to name even a handful.
But things are beginning to change.
The advent of bands such as Godspeed You Black Emperor, Greylevel and Druckfarben are beginning to stamp their mark and the magnificent Mystery with Michel St.-Pere are proving to be the equal of anything this side of the pond.
It is now safe to add Inner Odyssey to this list, who, with ‘Ascension’ have put together an exceptional album of contemporary progressive rock which, whilst ostensibly clinging to the classic prog comfort blanket, have pushed the envelope to produce a work that is as innovative as it is agreeably familiar.
Founded in Quebec in 2007 by band guitarist Vincent Leboeuf Gadreau, the band’s first album ‘Have A Seat’ was self-released in 2011 and re-released on Unicorn Records in 2012 and whilst it certainly had its moments of inspiration, too much of it descended into a primordial soup of shouted lyrics and overly thrashy guitars.
A parting of the ways between the band and vocalist Pier-Luc Garand Dion when they were actually in the studio to record ‘Ascension’, whilst no doubt traumatic, has served the band well as new vocalist (drummer Etienne Doyon) is much more in keeping with the band’s sound and ethos.
Eleven tracks in all which segue seamlessly one into the next giving the feeling of a complete work – and what a work.
Sound-wise they lie somewhere between Steven Wilson’s solo work and the mighty RPWL’s more recent output – and frankly there can be no higher accolade.
Highlights abound in an album of constantly changing time signatures and colossal mood-swings.
Seven of the eleven tracks clock in at over six minutes which really gives the music a chance to breathe and fully exploit the subtle nuances of the songwriting and the brilliance of the musicianship.
Add to this a completely believable libretto (ironically written by ex-vocalist Garand Dion) focusing on a man’s search for the meaning of his existence and it all comes together beautifully.
This is wonderful progressive rock from start to finish with pastoral acoustic interludes transformed by pounding rifferama segueing into delicate piano and keyboard motifs and being topped off by anthemic choruses – and with the quirky ‘Losing Your Mind’ also introducing a little left-field humour.
The guitar work is exceptional throughout as is the guitar/keyboard interplay – check out in particular the insistent guitar riff of ‘Something More’, the pounding riff and exciting slide guitar motif of ‘A World Of My Own’, the call and response of the instrumental ‘Retrospection’ and the anthemic riff and celestial coda of closer ‘Where It Begins, Where It Ends’.
In the round, ‘Ascension’ is as good an album of refreshingly contemporary progressive rock as you will hear – it never sits still, never flags, never disappoints and despite its occasional forays into the dark recesses of the mind is positively life-affirming.
What more do you want? *****
Review by Alan Jones
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