Mini-Review Monday: Touchstone – “Oceans Of Time”

Touchstone Oceans Of Time

Touchstone – Oceans Of Time

Rating: 4 /5

Touchstone’s fourth studio album, Oceans Of Time, sees the UK band continue to home their signature prog rock sound. And when I say “prog rock,” I mean that in a rather broad way. Touchstone combine the edge and immediacy of hard rock with progressive tendencies, strong melodies, and vibrant keyboards to create music that’s colorful and unique. Vocalist Kim Seviour is pleasing to the ears. She’s a more reserved singer than I would have expected, especially for a band like Touchstone. She does, however, emphasize the melodic nature of Touchstone’s music with grace and vulnerability.

The personalities of each song on Oceans Of Time vary as greatly as song length. Bluesy melancholy (“Contact”), scintillating synth-rock with metallic riff hooks (“Flux”), Pink Floyd-like classic prog with a crunch (“Spirit Of The Age”), oscillation between the band’s soft and heavy sides (“Shadow’s End”) – Touchstone never repeat themselves musically, and that’s what makes their music all the more enjoyable. Long-time fans will also be delighted by “Solace 2013,” a rock-oriented re-imagining of the ambient ballad from Touchstone’s 2009 album Wintercoast.

I won’t compare Oceans Of Time to any of Touchstone’s previous albums, since I haven’t heard them in their entirety. But if you haven’t checked out this band before, Oceans Of Time is a good place to start. My only true critique on this album is that the songwriting quality drops off a little after “Flux,” the opening track. I sometimes get discouraged when a band puts the most salient track up front, then follows it up with other songs that don’t seize your attention right away. “Flux” is still far and away my favorite on Oceans Of Time, but I’ve grown to like the rest of the album through repeated listens and am happy for it.

Highlights: “Flux” (check it out below), “Contact,” “Solace 2013”

For fans of Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Anathema, Arjen Lucassen, Evanescence, and Halestorm

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Deciding whether to buy Oceans Of Time from Amazon? Let me know whether you found my review helpful by clicking here and selecting either “Yes” or “No.”

Coming Soon: Next week’s edition of Mini-Review Monday will cover Elysion’s new album, Someplace Better.

New at Sonic Cathedral: Review of Misth’s “Rise Of A New Day”

Misth Rise Of A New Day cover

I’ll come right out and say it: Misth’s Rise Of A New Day will be at or near the top of my favorite albums list for 2013. This Swedish progressive hard rock band combines the talents of Mercury Fan’s musicians with the force-to-be-reckoned-with voice of Maria Rådsten (One More Time). And their debut album mixes elements of hard rock, classic rock, heavy metal, and progressive rock/metal to create a homogenous collective of 10 songs that are fun, emotive, and timeless. I actually go so far as to call Rise Of A New Day ” the “femme metal” revelation of the year.” But I’m sure you’d like to read more specifics than that, right?

Click here to read my review of Misth’s Rise Of A New Day.

And here’s the music video for the album’s title track. The mix of styles and Maria’s incredible voice grabbed me right away and convinced me to further investigate Misth’s music. There’s also a strong symphonic influence in the keyboards – something you don’t hear anywhere else on Rise Of A New Day, but that’s fine. It makes the song unique and compliments its bombastic tone.

Coming Soon: My review of Edenbridge’s eighth album The Bonding – and the next installment of “Chronicling The Craft”!

Two New EP Reviews at Sonic Cathedral

My two latest reviews at Sonic Cathedral are on EPs from two very different American bands. And both were quite good!

First up is the Chicago-based hard rock / heavy metal quartet Burning Eve. I discovered this band after checking out this year’s Dame-Nation 2012 line-up. While I couldn’t attend the festival (also in Chicago), I was still interested in hearing what the highlighted acts sounded like. In the end, I liked Burning Eve’s self-titled debut EP enough to buy it and tell the world about it. All three songs comprise of great musical and melodic hooks, charismatic vocals, and a wickedly in-your-face approach. And I’ll quote one of my favorite observations about this EP: “…[the] songs are concise and catchy enough to earn heavy radio rotation without compromising the music’s edge and power.” Not a bad start quality-wise for a relatively new band, right?

Click here to read my review of Burning Eve.

The more recent of the two EP reviews is on Ideal Zero, another newcomer band from Orlando, Florida. This quartet has already developed a rather unique sound: heavy alternative rock driven by enthralling vocals, heartfelt lyrics and bold choice in subject matter, and layers upon layers of keyboards. It’s not quite electro-rock, but not your average North American hard rock, either. Normally I try not to give EPs a rating higher than an 8.5 out of 10, since I like to hear more than just a few songs to realize just how good (or terrible) an artist can be. But Ideal Zero’s five-track, self-titled debut EP isn’t the least bit terrible. In fact, it was the first real test for my EP-rating rule – and it won. Ideal Zero is officially my album for this summer and, in my opinion, it’s “one of 2012’s most breathtaking surprises.”

Click here to read my review of Ideal Zero.

More reviews and other projects are in the works, so stay tuned!

~ Sara