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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Blackfield

Blackfield

Review by Gary Hill

When I first got this CD I hadn't heard of it, but knowing that Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree was involved in the project was enough to get my attention. As it turns out the album is a duo between Wilson and Israeli avant-garde hero Aviv Geffen. After several listenings, I have to say that I am very glad that I'm glad to have found this. It is a fine album with only a few shortcomings.

The overall texture obviously feels a bit like Porcupine Tree at times, but this also has a lot of other influences interspersed. There are moments when I felt like I was listening to a more progressive rock oriented Depeche Mode. Other times I could hear artists like the Beatles, Hogarth era Marillion, Barrett era Pink Floyd and many more. The thing is, all of these influences were fairly subtle, the duo creating a rather unique and fresh soundscape. On the downside, the album is far too short, weighing in at almost exactly 40-minutes. I would have really liked to hear more. The same holds true for many of the songs. They are all about 4 minutes each, and some could have used a little more time to grow and mature. There is a certain sameness to a lot of the disc, too, but it's not something that makes the disc hard to take. It's just a minor thing that you only really notice when paying close critical attention.

So, fans of Porcupine Tree should love this CD, but there is a lot here for anyone to like. I would say that those who enjoy Depeche Mode might find that this is something they can latch onto. I would certainly imagine that fans of the current lineup of Marillion might also enjoy this CD. Really if you like strong songwriting in a slightly mellow rock vein, this would probably be a solid listening experience for you.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Open Mind
Starting in an acoustic guitar based ballad mode, after a time this shifts to a harder edged catchy stomper for a while. It is quite a powerful cut that alternates between these two styles. It then turns into a very lush prog rock jam to end.
Blackfield
Pretty haunting piano starts this, then the cut bursts into a dramatic and potent melody. This one is pretty static, but it's in a nice place to begin and doesn't really need to wander far. The instrumental passage that ends it is quite strong, and I wish it would carry on for longer.
Glow
This is a dark and melancholy, but very pretty track. It jumps up later to an energetic and less dreary mode, just as if they sensed they'd gone as far as they could with the previous section.
Scars
Percussion is the only backing for the vocals at first on this one. As it moves into the second verse other instruments join, the song still building very slowly until it explodes into a lush and powerful arrangement for the chorus. After this section, though, it returns to the sparse approach that the chorus had replace. The song alternates between these two modes. A new segment with Arabic overtones comes into play for a time later. The chorus on this one is very tasty.
Lullaby
As the mellow piano and vocal arrangement begins this reminds me a bit of a dark Buggles sound.
Pain
This mid-tempo piece features a very Marillion/Genesis oriented instrumental break that forms the outro. That section could really stand further exploration as it is one of the strongest portions of the disc. Otherwise this number is fairly standard fare in comparison to the rest of the material on show.
Summer
This one takes a while to grown on the listener, but it's catchy combination of classic prog elements with Jellyfish and Beatles sounds along with a killer bridge featuring some of the tastiest guitar work on the disc make this a standout. The lyrics on the chorus are quite clever "Heart needs a home / It's a dark and empty road / When you're alone." This is another that I wish was longer.
Cloudy Now
Starting in a reflective and slow moving mode, this is another that feels a bit like early Genesis. The vocal performance and lyrics are probably the most powerful on the album. "In a violent place we can call our country / Is a mixed up man and I guess that's me / The sun's in the sky but the storm never seems to end / It's a place of sorrow, but we call it home / The darkest thoughts yeah, I guess they're my own / There's wealth in the bank, but there's nothing inside." It bursts into a short hard rocking segment to end. Those offended by the "f" word should avoid this track, but you'd really be missing out, as it is one of the strongest and most poignant pieces on the CD.
The Hole In Me
This cut seems to combine a classic prog sound with more modern alternative sounds and elements of artists like Radiohead and their ilk.
Hello
The strongest track on the disc, this one starts in a piano/vocal arrangement. As it grows it becomes a powerfully emotional song that feels a bit like both modern Marillion and Pink Floyd. The definitely know how to end the disc on a high note. This arrangement is very powerful and lush and not a single note is out of place. The cut is near perfection. The only complaint, as with most of the disc, is that it ends too soon.
 
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