Album review: KIAMA – Sign Of IV

Kiama - Sign Of IV

Tigermoth Records  [Release date: 02.02.16]

Alongside Steven Wilson, Rob Reed must be one of the busiest men in the field of progressive rock at the moment.

As well as his day job as leader and creative inspiration of the wonderful Magenta, he has more recently been spreading his multi-instrumentalist wings with the ‘rock opera’ Kompendium and his one-man tribute to Mike Oldfield, ‘Sanctuary’ – both sublime, both incredibly intensive and time-consuming.

And now here’s Kiama, a new project that Reed has put together with the intention of revisiting the classic rock bands of the early seventies such as ‘Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, Rainbow, et al, and essentially distilling the genre to extract the progressive rock heart that was always at the very core of tracks such as ‘Kashmir’, ‘Child In Time’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’  and ‘Stargazer’.

With so much of what passes for ‘progressive’ rock these days essentially thrash metal with the odd quiet interlude, it is so refreshing to hear a contemporary prog album, yes, with rock at its heart, but which puts the song and the melody at the centre of things.

That this has been achieved is in no small part due to the stellar cast of seasoned musicians that Reed has assembled here – Andy Edwards (Frost*, IQ), Luke Machin (The Tangent, Maschine) and Dylan Thompson (Shadow Of The Sun, The Reasoning) all play their parts in what turns out to be a stunning piece of work.

The recruitment of Thompson in particular is an inspired move as his vocals are perfectly suited to the songs and, though I suspect his range has been pushed to the limit, he comes through with flying colours.

Having been recorded live at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios, ‘Sign Of IV’ has that organic immediacy that can only be achieved with top musicians playing together rather than (as is so often the case these days) the various parts being recorded separately and squirted down the line.

Nine tracks in all and there’s not a dull moment to be heard.

Opening track ‘Cold Black Heart’ comes rumbling out of the speakers with Zeppelinesque rifferama that submits to an irresistible, anthemic chorus which gives Thompson an early opportunity to show what he’s going to bring to the party.

It’s a tremendous opening statement and pretty much sets the standard for what follows.

From the acoustic intro and pounding guitar wig-out of ‘Tears’ to the jazzy chops of ‘Muzzled’; from the multiple time signature changes of ‘Slime’ to the heavy as hell / quiet as a mouse acoustics of ‘To The Edge’ and the dreamy, pastoral and most progressive track on the album ‘Beautiful World’ every player gets their moment in the sun – and every player takes that moment to shine.

Machin’s guitar work is, at times stunning and the aforementioned Thompson sprinkles magic on every track. Andy Edwards’ stickwork is everything it should be and Reed’s keyboard and bass work in particular shine through like the consummate musician he is.

It would have been very easy for ‘Sign Of IV’ to slip into being merely a tribute album to the Gods of yore – truth is it’s an outstanding progressive rock album that captures the excitement of that 70’s vibe whilst sounding every bit as contemporary as Reed intended.

Marvellous.   *****

Review by Alan Jones

Alan sequences “The Eclectic Mix” on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio,  third Sunday of the month at 18:00. Expect some prog.

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