Album review: 4th LABYRINTH – Quattro Stagioni


4th Labyrinth - Quattro Stagioni

4th Labyrinth Music [Release date 04.09.15]

Described as classic progressive rock & pop band, 4th Labyrinth is much more than that. They are a band that reaches well beyond the 4 seasons concept of the album title. And while they might surprise the unsuspecting contemporary music fan brought up on a strict demarcation of genres, they are all the better for that.

They have a spirit of adventure in their music that rides rough-shot over familiarity, cliché and low level expectations.

Their songs strike an essential balance between enthusiasm and an ability to give the album a unique musical vision and identity

The thoughtful lyrics, catchy riffs, good hooks and expansive arrangements cleverly incorporate occasional eclectic elements. It’s all subtly shaped together into a coherent set of songs that flow from beginning to the end.

‘Quattro Stagioni’ glistens with soaring melodies, subtly crafted songs, intuitive playing and consistently good vocals from the keyboard playing vocalist Marcel Kunkel

The rest of the band comprises guitarist John Harper, Claudia McKenzie on bass, and Tom Winch on drums. Each band member fully contributes to a set of polished arrangements that leave enough room for the ensemble to stretch out.

‘Open The Gate’ features an ambient sounding piano and glockenspiel on an orchestral arrangement that draws the listener into an album full of well crafted songs, strong harmonies and stirring melodies that frequently reach for the epic.

In sharp contrast, ‘Get Out Alive’ is a big riff-led piece, with 80’s sounding synth pulses, an uplifting vocal with a booming chorus and strong harmonies that sound like The Motors, but the song is no worse for that.

‘Wonderful Song’, is a jaunty piece that reflects the title, as Marcel evokes the whimsical pop of Colin Blunstone,  before he slips into a falsetto mode with echoes of the white boy soul of Daryl Hall. It’s a style he extends on the funky guitar and pop melodic sensibility of ‘Kings For A While’.

Marcel explores his full vocal range on the intro to ‘Shining Star’, on a song that showcases his dual abilities as a singer and songwriter, before the band adds a languid, brushed stroked accompaniment

‘Rule the World’ is another confident ballad on which Marcel glides over some subtle band interplay and John Harper’s integral ascending guitar solo.

4th Labyrinth has a refreshing belief in song-led values. Their arrangements support the songs rather than merely glue them together, so allowing the constituent parts to breathe. The band is anchored by the locked in rhythm section and framed by a roomy production that focuses on the album as a whole

Listen to the extended vocal sweep on the chorus of ‘Love’ which has echoes of 10cc at their peak. It’s a song very much in the contemporary singer songwriter vein, but without the doomy shoe gazing aspects. The melody rises beautifully, the harmonies sparkle and the guitar has just enough edge to drive the song home.

A mid-number key change momentarily threatens to throw them off their course, but Marcel’s impassioned vocal resolves things as he soars majestically into the outro.

The vocal line and music accompaniment of ‘How Do I Make You Feel’ cleverly mirrors the questioning title. They rock out on ‘Take Me High’ and broach the anthemic on ‘Leave’. Marcel then evokes Colin Blunstone on the first part of ‘Pretty Coloured Faces (For You)’, before the band joins him on an enveloping production that has the feel of an indie version of a Phil Spector.

The final piano-led ballad ‘A Simple Song’ rounds off an impressive debut album that has enough depth, weight and substance to warrant repeated explorations.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00

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