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.

Mini-Review Monday: Legend – “Spirit”

Legend Spirit

Legend – Spirit

Rating: 3 / 5

I admit that Legend is a new name to me. However, these UK prog rockers have been around for a while. Keyboardist / band leader Steve Pain founded the band back in 1988, and Spirit is their fifth album. With that experience comes the layered, complex sound that Legend have honed during their career (except during their 13-year hiatus). Varied guitarwork, dynamic drumming, and a colorful palette of keyboards / synths swirl in winding, labyrinthine song structures. Singer Beck Sian swoops from bewitching lows to piercing highs as she sings. Quite often she’s accompanied by a massive-sounding (and non-classical) choir that amps up the bombast even more. Yes, you’re going to hear myriad sounds on Spirit: organs, acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, sitars, ambient keys, cosmic blips and bleeps – and that’s just to start! Apparently the lyrics have a pagan slant, but apart from “Wood For The Trees” the themes are universal enough for all listeners to relate to.

All this sounds like a recipe for great prog music – but Spirit hasn’t really grown on me since I bought it. A huge reason is that there’s almost too going on in Legend’s music. They’re like a prog rock version of Blind Guardian: The melodies and musical elements compete against each other, making it hard for the listener to concentrate on a song without getting overwhelmed. Also, I prefer Beck’s low- / mid-range vocals to her high notes. Her lower register’s got a spellbinding quality that draws you in. But her higher register peaks so high, it makes me cringe. There are some lovely songs on Spirit, though. “Crossing Of The Ways” entrances with its mix of ethereal soundscapes and tribal percussion; and “A Tangled Skein” and “State Of Grace” have some cool moments (especially the Native American / doom-laced outro of the former, and Beck’s a capella harmonies on the latter). Unfortunately, that’s not enough to percolate my lukewarm feelings into stronger enthusiasm.

If you’re a fan of prog bands like Rush, Renaissance, and Marillion or female vocalists like Kate Bush and Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel, you might like Legend’s Spirit. Just because I think it’s only OK doesn’t mean that other people won’t like it more.

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

Coming Soon: Just a few hundred words away from 40,000 on my novel-in-progress! I hope to make enough progress to get a new “Chronicling The Craft” online in the next couple weeks.

Mini-Review Monday: “Medea” by Ex Libris

Welcome to the first installment of Mini-Review Mondays! I started the meme on my Facebook page a few weeks ago and thought it was time to introduce it on the blog.

On Mini-Review Mondays, I’ll post a fairly short review (2 or 3 paragraphs long – short for me!) of an album I’ve recently purchased. Expect the reviews to cover the same genres of music I’ve reviewed for other sites: different styles of rock and metal, with maybe some pop or other genres thrown in here and there. Reviews will be posted as new music comes my way, so probably a few times a month instead of every Monday. I hope you’ll enjoy them!

Now, time for the first mini-review… Continue reading