White Knight [Release date 07.10.16]
We first came across 25YS in 2007 when they released their ‘classic’ second album ‘Cassandra’. This gained many plaudits and a highlight of the year for the band was an appearance on the GRTR! Rising Stars stage at Cambridge Rock Festival and a mention in the Classic Rock Top 100 songs of the year. Ah, happy days.
The follow-up albums have never quite recaptured the resonance and drama of ‘Cassandra’ and it might be argued that these South Wales guys never wanted to revisit former glories. ‘Until All Are One’ (2011) ramped up their metallic side, more Metallica than Marillion. 2013′s ‘Something That Serves To Warn Or Remind’ introduced second guitarist/keyboard player Tom Bennett.
‘Keep Sending Signals’ sees a return to their best modus operandi and recycles a few musical ideas that have been swirling around since those headier times.
The two part title track shows off their mettle: an ambient Part 1 with lots of little quirky noises and then in to an immersive Part 2 with Nick James’ characteristic choir boy vocals and a dense production.
Of the older tracks the reworked ‘Pulse’ and ‘Pictures Within’ still retain the signature fret-mangling and tight rhythms (courtesy of Matt Clarke and Donal Owen). I would hazard a guess that ‘Pages’ is equally reworked but maybe James’ voice is a little too upfront in the overall, subjugated, instrument mix.
I’ve always thought that the band would really benefit from much better production; unfortunately it is a stigma that marks out a generation of home recordings, but some do it better than others. In particular the drums are not convincing and rattle rather than rumble which lends some tracks a definite demo quality.
The excellent closing track ‘No Beautiful View’ is a welcome contrast to the tension/relief of a typical 25YS workout and again aligns itself with the Cassandra/sub-Marillion model (a la ‘No Such Thing’). In fact it aligns also with ‘Home Is Not Home’ on the previous album. Maybe a portent of the next album to come?
25YS (who helped one Ben Randall in his formative years and who appeared together on a Prog magazine cover disc) are an engaging bunch of guys who continue to follow their progressive muse and, if not as consistent as its predecessor, ‘Keep Sending Signals’ still maintains the band’s impressive credentials. ***1/2
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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