Progressive Promotions Records have proven time and again that the progressive rock genre is not an antiquated life-form gasping out its final breath, but a viable medium of artistic expression full of fresh new faces and talented artists more than capable of filling the niche of aging prog pioneers and 80s' neo-revivalist. And no label has done more to introduce prog/rock aficionados to exciting new international artists than Progressive Promotions Records and their growing stable of artists like Seven Steps To The Green Door, Toxic Smile, Argos, T, Retrospective, Invertigo, Flaming Row, Nemo, Riverside, Elora, and Trion to name a few. Many of which have been favorably reviewed here at Prognaut.
Add to that ever expanding list of promising new artists the German band, Cyril and their debut album “Gone Through Years”, a cross-over progressive rock masterpiece.
I've selfishly put-off reviewing this album until now because it allowed me the opportunity to continue recycling it among the stack of CDs on my desk scheduled for review. I've listened to this dozens of time, enjoying it more with each listen. Unfortunately, its not fair to the band to put it off any longer. But I assure you, “Gone Through Years” will remain on my desk among the stack of CDs yet to be reviewed so it continues to be in constant rotation, working it's way up the stack again and again.
Cyril is the latest project spearheaded by Marek Arnold (keyboards, sax, clarinet, electric wind instruments, programming) the multi-talented musician and founding member of the German groups Toxic Smile, Seven Steps To The Green Door, and Flaming Row. Also along for the ride on this time traveling musical sojourn into the 4th. Dimension is Larry Brodel of Toxic Smile (vocals – as Cyril), Ralf Dietsch from the band Hidden Timbre (guitar, mandolin), Denis Strasboug (bass and arrangements), Litschko Clemens (drums, percussion), and also featuring Manuel Schmid from the band Stern Combo Meissen (vocals – as Hologram), Amelie Schmid (vocals – as Alice), and Saskia Brodel (vocals).
As you might imagine from the line-up and cast of characters, this is another in an ever-increasing number of ambitious concept albums that have come my way for review. In the past few months alone I've reviewed concept albums from: Believe (“Warmest Sun In Winter”), Daymoon (“Fabric Of Time And Space”), Kingbathmat (“Overcoming The Monster”), Clive Nolan (“Alchemy”), Telergy (“The Legend Of Goody Cole”), Colin Edwin & Jon Durant (“Burnt Belief”) and Demian Clav (“Adrift: Ten Years Before Scardanelli”).
“Gone Through Years” is thematically inspired by the H.G. Wells novel “The Time Machine”. But judging by the lyrics this story bears more similarity to the 2002 motion picture remake directed by Simon Wells, the great-great grandson of H.G. Wells. The storyline of “Gone Through Years” retains the Simon Wells romantic back story of lost love and the time traveler’s attempt to alter history and rectify the tragic event separating him from his lost love – a plot device missing from both Wells novel and George Pal's original 1960 motion picture. And while the film adaptations of George Pal and Simon Wells was a spectacle of state of the art eye candy, Cyril translates their epic cinematic flight of fantasy into an exciting audio adventure for the mind, and a pleasure to the ears. The production is both warm and inviting, retaining the power and full spectrum of audiophile dynamics that make for a pleasurable listening experience without the harsh digital compression that plagues many recordings.
The album opens with “In Search Of Wonder” and for a brief instant the piano chord progression bore an uncanny resemblance to Bruce Hornsby's “The Way It Is”. But that similarity soon disappears as the track evolves into a haunting power ballad. And like every track on the record – you are immediately drawn in by a catchy hook.
Forget about singling out a few tracks for recommendations … the entire album is a winner from the opening note to the overlapping closing collage reprising musical highlights throughout the album.
The soulful vocals of Larry Brodel brings to mind the tandem of Paul Carrack and Paul Young of Mike And The Mechanics.
As a matter of fact references to Mike And The Mechanics can be made throughout the disc, but none so prevalent as track four - “Gone Through Years”. This track duplicates the heart wrenching emotion captured on their hit single “The Living Years”.
“Mental Scars” opens with a quiet Marillion vibe before exploding into the kind of high octane arena rock power ballad you might expect to hear on a Magnum album. It then transitions into a melancholy duet between Larry Brodel (as the traveler) and Amelie Schmid (as Alice).
The album is awash with many such shifting moods and tempo changes in addition to brilliant musical arrangements and virtuoso performances (including some superb clarinet, sax, and electronic winds from Marek Arnold), outstanding vocals, and flawless production.
So what's not to like!
My only complaint would be the omission of a booklet containing the lyric sheet, which prevented me from getting the complete gist of the story.
Highly recommended for all cross-over, neo, heavy, and classic prog/rock aficionados; and fans of similar bands, such as: Arena, Pallas, Enchant, Shadowland, Egdon Heath, Blue Mammoth, Big Big Train, O.S.I., Kino, Magnum, Mike And The Mechanics, Invertigo, The Mars Volta, and Seven Steps To The Green Door.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on August 26th, 2013