Frontiers [Release date 07.08.20]
Dukes Of The Orient – vocalist John Payne (ex-Asia, GPS) and keyboardist Erik Norlander (Last In Line, Lana Lane, Rocket Scientists) – return with their second album. Dukes Of The Orient has more of a band feel as Payne and Norlander are joined by guitarist Andy Garcia, Frank Klepacki on drums, and saxophonist, Eric Tewalt.
The album starts off with ‘The Dukes Return’ that mixes in some pomp keyboards and Queen like harmonies. A suitably grandiose start to the album. Next up ‘The Ice Is Thin’ has a real Supertramp feel to it, from the 70’s groove laden keys through to the sax breaks. There is even a vocoder solo!
One thing noticeable is the slightly gruffer vocals from John Payne at times, none more so than on the title track. Quite a heavy track compared to the rest of the album.
‘The Monitors’ is the only song that recalls Asia in sound, Norlander’s keyboards playing (plenty of parping to be had on this song) is impressive on this one, as indeed it is throughout the whole album. The instrumental ‘The Great Brass Steam Engine’ allows Norlander to highlight his keyboards wizardry.
Only ‘The Last Time Traveller’ fails to impress. Neat idea to add spoken word to tale of possible Victorian/steam punk time travel, but the cod Cockney accent grates after a couple of listens. The song seems to seem to be the weakest link on an otherwise strong album.
‘When Ravens Cry’ and ‘Until Then’ are a fine pomp fuelled duo to end the album on. The former features lush harmony vocals, whilst the latter features laid back guitar playing from Andy Garcia, gloriously uplifting.
Norlander and Payne make a strong song writing combo, no second album flop for the Dukes Of Orent, as they serve up an enjoyable mix of prog, pomp and melodic rock. ****
Review by Jason Ritchie
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