"Refuel" is the seventh studio album by this California neo prog trio.
The core lineup of Erik Norlander (keyboards, vocals), Mark McCrite (guitars, vocals) and Don Schiff (NS/Sticks, bass, strings) is still intact and the album also features some special guests including Gregg Bissonette (drums) and vocalists Lane Lane, Kelly Keeling and Emily McCrite.
The idea for "Refuel" came along in 2012 when the band decided to write some new music to mark the 20th anniversary since their debut album. They wrote so much music that they released a 30 minute all instrumental ep earlier in 2014 entitled "Supernatural Highways". "Refuel" contains the remainder of those tracks mixing both instrumental and vocal tracks.
The album starts with the title track which is a 2 minute and 13 second instrumental heavy on keyboards and bass. "She's Getting Hysterical" is up next and has a commercial vibe that recalls Asia, it features some nice cello courtesy of Don Schiff and a trumpet solo by Jon Papenbrook.
"Martial" turns things up a notch with some heavy guitar riffing by Mark McCrite. Next is "It's Over" which is a slow ballad with some vintage keyboard sounds supplied by Erik Norlander. The second instrumental on the album is "Regenerate" and is very keyboard heavy. "The Fading Light" is another slow pop track again with a commercial vibe to it and some more vintage keyboard sounds. Again I am reminded on Asia or perhaps some of John Wetton's solo work. "The World Waits for You" is another pop track with nice piano, guitar and strings. The third instrumental track "Reconstruct" was written by Don Schiff and is a pleasant but very short strings piece. It is followed by "Cheshire Cat Smile" which features Kelly Keeling on vocals and some brass supplied by Jon Papenbrook, Eric Jorgensen and Richard Hofmann. "Rome's About to Fall is the longest track on the album clocking in at over eight minutes, It features some gentle keyboards including mellotron and harmony vocals supplied by Emily McCrite and Lana Lane. The fourth and final instrumental is entitled "Galileo" and is a digital synth heavy song. The final track "The Lost Years" features Lana Lane on lead vocals and is a slow pop song that builds up with some fretless bass and a keyboard and guitar solo.
If you enjoy the poppier more commercial side of Progressive rock by bands such as Asia or Saga then this album should appeal to you.
Reviewed by John Longo on May 5th, 2015