"Honey And Lava" is an intriguing title for the debut album from Coralspin, a new three-piece progressive outfit from the UK. The band promises a melding of modern progressive music with mainstream rock and roll, listing such diverse acts as Muse, Led Zeppelin, Sandy Denny, Biffy Clyro, Yes, ELO, Gentle Giant, Queen, 10CC, and Genesis as their source of inspiration. And since I'm only familiar with Yes, Genesis, Sandy Denny, 10CC, Gentle Giant, Queen, ELO, and Led Zeppelin I must assume Muse and Biffy Clyro are the primary inspiration for this disc because I hear little of the other fore mentioned groups in the tunes. I'd suggest a better point of reference for the material on "Honey And Lava" as the era of 80s' synthpop romanticism from groups like Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Duran Duran, Japan and popular chart topping pop groups from that decade: The Cars, Sparks, The Buggles, Eurythmics, Missing Persons, Blondie, and Berlin.
The musicianship is excellent, which includes core members Ellie Blyth (keyboards), Blake McQueen (keyboards), and Jake Simmons (guitar), as well as guest musicians Steve Knightly (bass) and David English (drums); but the vocals are an acquired taste that I personally never did find palatable enough to swallow without the aid of a chaser. And unfortunately, in the end they detracted from my overall enjoyment of the music.
There is little deviation or dynamics to Ellie Blyth's vocal range, making tunes which are clearly different in tone, texture, and rhythm sound eerily similar to the one before.
Once again I'm presented with a bit of a conundrum. She's not a bad singer by no stretch of the imagination ... it's just her unwavering vocal style detracts from the strength of the album. Yet it does not present enough of a problem for me to dismiss the album as a thumbs down clunker. Maybe on their next effort her fellow band-mates might join in for some two or three part harmonies to thicken the vocal track and add a little aural variety. A little less 'pretty' when the music gets 'down and gritty'.
Enough about the vocals - now lets focus on the songs.
Tracks like "Sons Of The Sleeping Giant" and "Sky's End" rock out with the intensity and panache of vintage Rush. It's a showcase for guitarist Jake Simmons.
"Your Wrong" has a little re-occurring keyboard riff that brings to mind mid-period 80s' Genesis, so I can see where they might adopt the Genesis reference.
"Mistimed" is the type of hook laden rocker that transformed many 80s' artists from successful musicians to music video megastars - artists like Eurythmics, Missing Persons, Blondie, and Berlin. This is vintage 80s' synthpop at it's finest. And for the cynical detractors who pontificate on all that was wrong with the popular music of the 80s' - "Mistimed" represents the embodiment of what was right. And Ellie Blyth's vocals are spot-on perfect for this number. Best track on the album.
The same can be said for the vocal presentation on the tune "Night Stalker", which echoes Nancy Wilson of Heart. For "Night Stalker" Blyth's vocals match the power and passion of the music.
The album closes with the beautifully rendered ballad "Aching" featuring some nice keyboard work from McQueen and Blyth, and smoking guitar from Simmons. The dual keyboardists Blyth and McQueen compliment each other quite nicely; much like the duo Rick Eddy and Tim Drumheller of A Triggering Myth.
So all and all this is something of a mixed bag, which is not uncommon for a debut album. Loved all the tunes and quality musicianship that went into each track ... was a bit lukewarm on some - but not all of the vocals ... and thought the production was flawless.
Recommended to fans of progressive groups like Citadel, Spring, Magenta as well as the best of the 80s' synthpop bands who ushered in an age of New Romanticism.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on September 9th, 2012