Progressive Gears – [Release date: 16.05.17]
With the notable and towering exception of Rush, Canada has not exactly been renowned for its contributors to the field of progressive rock.
That, however, is very much on the change with bands such as Huis, Inner Odyssey and Michel St Pere’s wonderful Mystery starting to turn heads.
Add to this list Machines Dream, whose third album ‘Black Science’ has all the credentials to raise the band’s profile and, as a consequence, Canada’s progressive rock reputation.
Two years in the making, whilst ‘Black Science’ is not a concept album in the strictest sense of the phrase – it does however, take a long hard look back at the twentieth century with all its wars, the rise of fascism, the military/industrial complex and the internet with its attendant fake news and abuse of social media.
The band have, in more or less chronological order, painted aural pictures of the major events of the century – from the opening ‘Armistice Day’ with its piano and crashing guitars through to album closer’s ‘Noise To Signal’s’ call to arms to take back the internet from the trolls and big business.
It’s pretty much classic progressive rock all the way with Brian Holmes’ delicious keyboard work weaving its way around the exceptional guitar of Rob Coleman, with a checklist of time signature changes a-plenty, fortissimo and pianissimo and an articulate, informative libretto all ticked.
Plenty of highlights for aficionados of the genre to get excited about – the insistent piano motif and searing guitar of ‘Weimar’, the interesting twist of ‘Heavy Water’ where the lyrics attempt to get inside the heads of the crew of the Enola Gay, the nagging acoustic riff and Floydian sax of the title track and the juxtaposition of a jackhammer guitar riff with subtle piano work on ‘UXB’.
Best of the lot though is ‘Airfield On Sunwick’ which tells the tale of a platoon of Polish soldiers in WW2 who adopted and gave the rank of private to a Syrian Brown Bear (who they called Wojtek) – some magical keyboard work here with the added authenticity of a coda sung in Polish.
All in all a rather fine effort. The album is well recorded, immaculately played and with a thoughtful set of lyrics in progressive rock’s finest traditions.
Interesting to see where they take it next. ****
Review by Alan Jones
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