In a Lazarus type scenario, this legendary band are back with a cracking new batch of songs.
We all know that "legendary" status is often bestowed on bands and albums unjustifiably. The passage of time clouds the truth and nostalgia colours our memory.
With this band, the status is deserved. I still play their second album, 'No Rules'
on a regular basis. It captures a moment in time, and very possibly could be claimed to be emblematic of an era.
doesn't ignore the past. Neither does it try to repeat past glories. The band have moved on and so has the music but, thankfully, there's a jetstream of unique eighties pomp rock trailing in their wake. Nine finely grained snapshots of a previous life, mixed in with all that has been learned and experienced since.
They spent the early years as a covers band refining their Kansas
, Styx, Genesis, Boston, Klaatu imitations, so if the band sounds derivative at times, you'll understand that they drank at the well of rock music greatness.
As Hybrid Ice
was then, it is now. No mean achievement.
Vocalist/guitarist, Rusty Foulke; vocalist/keyboardist Robert S Richardson, vocals/guitar, Chris Alburger, drums/vocals, Rick Klinger and bass/vocals Rick Boarman.
Lyrically, 'Minds Eye'
is a challenging, provocative album. Informed by the wisdom of age. It's full of social commentary and personal reflection. Sharply observed, articulate, never pious, never sanctimonious. A welcome alternative to the usual welter of cliches and clunky sentiments.
Writers Foulke and Richardson have separately sculpted several seriously good rock songs.
Foulke's twin tilts at Livgren like melodic progressive rock songs with a moral core, 'Fight Another Day'
and 'Worth The Wait'
take their cue from the latter. There's a wealth of fine textural detail that just rushes past you on first listen. Second third fourth time it all begins to stick. Suddenly you're converted and you're singing along turned up to eleven.
Richardson's 'Bring Me The Gold'
bounces along happily, driven by Klinger's propulsive percussive thump, and you're thinking that maybe his songs are pleasant but won't quite measure up to Foulke's.
Then 'Sadder Day Morn'
begins. An elaborate, finely crafted pomp prog rock song, Beatle-esque in places, constructed around neat chord shifts, tidal keyboard swells and an uplifting time change. Probably the album's standout track.
There's a marked Kansas
feel to 'Stop Searching'
. But it's also reminiscent of other popular Christian melodic rock bands of the eighties, like Liaison and Idle Cure. It's full of powerful harmonies, all the more enjoyable because they are sparingly used, illuminating the song like a firework display.
'Only The Lonely'
- a track with clear contemporary influences - starts slow and small, gradually ratcheting up the drama and the tempo, then puts on a sudden growth spurt before morphing into a pomp rock monster.
is a real throwback to the Hybrid Ice
of old. Tight harmonies, simple and elaborate at one and the same time. A great up tempo track, will sound great live, with an rousing axe solo that closes the track in style.
Ten minute closer, 'Faith Without Works'
is the band's magnum opus, opening with an ELP like fanfare and flick-of-the-wrist, progrock guitars, swimming through a sea of keyboards and skipping through almost imperceptible time changes.
Muscular, arty vocal harmonies allied to pumping guitars provide the momentum. But it's the detours into territories previously occupied by bands like Genesis and Saga
that provide the interest and demand your constant attention.
A fabulous comeback then. An album with the width and the depth to satisfy at every level.
Let's sincerely hope that this is no swansong.
Written by Brian
Saturday, August 15, 2009Show all reviews by BrianRatingsBrian: 8/10
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