Artist/ Band: Halo Blind
Title: Occupying Forces
Label: Nautical Records
Year of Release: 2013
Offical Artist/ Band Link

The Review:

Halo Blind fuses elements of cerebral modern cross-over prog and alternative indie rock creating something that would appeal to aficionados of bands like Radiohead, Alt-J, and Sigur Ros ... more so than symphonic, metal, or neo-prog.

Think Phish with a PH rather than Fish- era Marillion - even though two members of Halo Blind (Chris Johnson and Gavin Griffiths) both appear on Fish's 2008 release "13th Star".

Hailing from York in the UK, this five piece band includes: Chris Johnson (vocals, guitars, keyboards, percussion), Andy Knights (vocals, keyboards, guitars, percussion), Gavin Griffiths (drums), Chris Farrell (guitars, ukulele), and Stuart Fletcher (bass).

Chris Johnson is a well respected multifaceted artist in the alternative progressive scene, working as musician, music producer, audio engineer, and mixer. He is also a Lecturer in Music Production at Huddersfield University. Johnson has been recording since 1999. His first project Lo Beams was recorded in 1999, followed by the project The Evernauts in 2004 and the release of the album "The Northern Country". It was shortly thereafter that he was recruited to the melodic progressive rock group Mostly Autumn where he formed a longstanding relationship with vocalist Heather Findley - performing on her 2014 release "Songs From The Old Kitchen (The Heather Findley Band) as well as the 2012 album "Live at The Cafe 68" (Heather Findley & Chris Johnson). During his on again off again relationship with Mostly Autumn, Johnson appeared on the recordings: "Spirit Of Christmas Past" (2005), "Storms Over Still Water" (2005), Storms Over London Town" (2006), "Heartful Of Sky" (2007) and "Pass The Clock" (2009).

Like Chris Johnson, Gavin Griffiths appeared on the Fish album "13th Star" and was also a member of Mostly Autumn (though not at the same time as Johnson) appearing on the albums "Go Well Diamond Heart" (2010) and "The Ghost Moon Orchestra" (2012). He also performed in the band Panic Room.

Before teaming up with Johnson and Griffiths to join Halo Blind bassist Stuart Fletcher performed with The Seahorses, Happy Mondays, and St. Etienne.

Chris Farrel was a member of the band The Yards and appeared with Chris Sheehan.

Andy Knights was a member of the Chris Helme Band.

Together, as Halo Blind these talented journeyman musicians have gained quite a reputation throughout the UK for their prowess on stage, resulting in being signed to play at the prestigious Isle Of Wright Festival, as well as winning top honors as the Best New Band from the Classic Rock Society.

The 2013 release "Occupying Force" is the impressive follow-up to their debut album "Fabric" (recorded when the band was called Parade - which is currently out-of-print and only available for download on their website). The line-up for " Fabric" was quite different with Simon Snaize, Anne-Marie Helder and Patrick Berry joining Johnson and Griffiths.

There is a haunting quality to their stand-out melancholy ballads like "Better?", "The Puppet", "Coma", "Smithereens", and "Downpour". Very reminiscent of the later period Hogarth-era Marillion albums and the Steven Wilson & Tim Bowness No-Man projects with a smidgen of The Smashing Pumpkins thrown into the mix.

"Coma" is quite unsettling, with a strong Pink Floyd vibe running through it. And like many of the songs, the thought provoking lyrics are quite compelling and at times disturbing. Songwriters Johnson and Knights are heady wordsmiths who use a well placed word or phrase in much the same way as an artist's brushstroke on a canvass. Creating an aural masterpiece for the mind.

Just as I was about to marginalize Halo Blind as one of those chilled-out bands that oozes with style and moody atmosphere, but varies little in tempo from track-to-track out jumps a rocker like "Brain Dog", shaking you to your core with raucous energy and bombastic dynamics.

Another rocker is "Revolutionary Soul" which sounds more like something you'd expect to hear on a Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins album.

There is a soothing choir boy quality to Johnson's vocal style, yet when called upon to deliver a message fueled by angst-driven anger and frustration his delivery can jar you from your apathy.

The music on "Occupying Forces" should appeal to New Millennial proggers and alternative rockers. If bands like Blackfield, Nosound, Oceansize, Tool, Radiohead, Gazpacho, Alt-J, No-Man, Nirvana, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, R.E.M., The Tea Party, Blue October, Pink Floyd, and Sigur Ros strike your fancy then Halo Blind and "Occupying Forces" deserve a place in your music collection.

Highly Recommended.

Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on July 24th, 2014

Tracks:

01. Better?
02. Revolutionary Soul
03. Mirage
04. Saturate
05. Torrential
06. Downpour
07. End Of The First Side
08. Brain Dog
09. False Alarm
10. The Puppet
11. Smithereens
12. Analogue
13. Coma
14. Control

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