1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“Steve Thorne is a prolific singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter from England. He has been the founding member of Colony Earth and The Salamander Project, as well as playing as a solo artist”
“Steve's debut album Emotional Creatures Part One, released in 2005, is a great combination of melodic songs, varying influences from Folk to Indie and to Prog Rock, which in these, you can hear notable bands such as Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, as well as some of modern day artists. Steve was wise enough, to call a good bunch of very talented musicians, as well as having a big fame in the prog world, like Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Liquid Tension), Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard, Genesis, Tears For Fears), Geoff Downes (Asia, Buggles, YES) and some members from IQ and Jadis, which by the way, Steve has contributed to Jadis”
“Steve's second album, Emotional Creatures Part Two, follows the same varied style, with again, a wide range of musicians, from well known Prog bands. Somewhat repetitive in ideas, but still, clearly showing a different album”
“Steve might not be your usual Prog solo artist, featuring complex structures, nor excessive amount of virtuosity, despite the wide range of musicians contributing. Still a highly enjoyable songwriter often compared to the mellower songs of Porcupine Tree” (Source: Prog Archives, 2009).
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
Steve’s latest effort setting a new course after the completion of the Emotional Creatures albums.
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
Kings Of Sin – This one opens with Thorne’s keys and vocals. Great synths, guitar and of course Levin’s stick. A new original sound to everything, highlighting one of the best Neo Prog albums to come out this year. The band brings the power with D’Virgilio’s drums and Mitchell’s launching guitar. All of the best of Neo Prog on display and it works well.
Ah, the glory days of rock n’ roll. For Neo Prog it was the 80s. “Through the long hot summer of ’86.” All the excesses of the 70s played out during the tour of the mid – 80’s.
For someone who is new to the ‘Thorne sound’ I am immediately reminded of Fish of Marillion’s vocals. Steve’s are similar, which must make all of the Neo Proggers happy indeed. Good powerful start with all the power of drums, unique synths and great sophisticated guitar riffs. One of the best songs on the album. Great show and album opener. The synth fade out at the end is wonderful.
Feathers - The action jumps right into this next song. Another solid song full of original sounds and excellent performances from all involved. Great melodies, keys, drums, and thumping bass. The lyrics on this one are great. The guitar solos are wonderful. Another of the best songs on the album. Not sure if this or the first is better, but no drop off after the strong opener.
Paper Tiger – Slow things down with, “There is a place called home deep in the heart of everyone.” “Fear is just a paper tiger.” I like the lyrics on this one best. Really captures that feeling of growing older and trying to capture what you used to have in youth. The picture of two boys flying a kite aids in creating the effect. But the music envelopes you and brings the feeling home. The guitar solo is worth the price of admission. “In innocence he dreams of fields and winding streams.” Yeah, very good change in direction from the first two blockbusters. Nothing more to add, he said it all!
Into The Ether – The title track opens with drums and a nice guitar solo and riff. After the first three launched this album so well, this one falls back to traditional Neo Prog sounds. Not a bad song, just not as strong or original sounding a as the first three tracks.
Granite Man – Synths and the title ‘granite man’ repeated in the background as piano effects take over. “This existence we share is unbearable with no one there.” The cold world rears its ugly head. Then those 80s era synths and keys as the refrain kicks in, “I’m not a granite man, I haven’t got a plan…and I’m cracked in two.” Then, “I’m not a granite man, nor’ an American.” Why do these Neo Proggers love to pick on Americans? Nice keys and guitars to finish off the song.
Black Dahlia – Very dark subject matter here, and the synths and acoustic guitars rise to the occasion. Very nice acoustic guitar rhythm builds and carries the song well. One of the best musical melodies of the album, despite the lyrics and subject matter.
Sons Of Tomorrow – The calamity of war. “Hate can make a man see red.” “Practical minds turn to dust, in primitive moments of lust.” Such a sensitive melody with keys, synths and guitars to offset the discussion of one of man’s worst inclinations. The picture reminds all that it’s Americans that are warlike. “Leaders languish safe from harm.” “Out of touch they’ll send a young man to his death.” “All of the sweat and the toil, for the price of a barrel of oil.” The New World Order philosophy rears its ugly head again. A popular theme throughout Neo Prog. The end gives us more of those classic Neo Prog synths solos. The traditional Neo Prog theme, America the modern Rome.
Valerie – The loss of a loved one. A painful story and a tribute. Acoustic guitar, accordion and keys strengthen this sentimental tribute.
Victims – The train station, with sound effects everywhere to open this one. Then dancing syths, keys, drums and guitar. The everyday nine to five life of England, where cold is the word. The cold English way of regard for each other made so famous in Oliver Twist centuries ago. The city’s cold, ‘don’t look directly into each other’s eyes’ culture of the big city. “A sense of being so alone.” The music and lyrics set a good backdrop for the echoing message of the song from John Lennon, “Lennon said, that “love is all you need.” “Oh! Give me strength love.” “We don’t know right or wrong no more and we’re all victims that’s for sure.”
The fade out is wonderful. The Beatles inspired, “All you need is love, love is all you need.”
The End – The end is coming soon. Most of Neo prog is obsessed with the end of the world. The music is upbeat, with piano, drums and guitar building a strong rhythm, and in a hurry, as if they are looking forward to the end. “…overcome by waves of fear I can’t resist at all.” The Neo Prog refrain, we are powerless to control our own destiny. “I’m afraid that I’ve wasted so much time and thrown a thousand days away.” But, “I don’t care ‘cause I’ve lived it all on my own terms, no compromise.” The picture of people jumping off the cliff is a perfect summary for the feeling of the lyrics here. The song ends with the familiar traditional Neo Prog anthemic guitar riffs and keys.
Curtain – Since we’ve reached the end, what better way to end the album but a curtain call? So melodramatic. Acoustic guitar and keyboard effects to set the quiet thoughtful tone for this closer. “Tearing songs from a book that tore chunks out of me.” This was a very emotional album. I can imagine what Emotional Creatures I and II were like without even hearing them. “Now that I’ve said all I wanted to say, the child deep inside is running away.” “I was born by such a fluke and I’m ready to die.” “Now I’m feeling the strain and I’m itching to fly.” The guitar and key solo near the end is a wonderful interlude.
Wow, what a farewell. The story began with storming through Europe on tour during the 80s, only to finish with a curtain call that makes you wonder if this is the last Steve Thorne album.
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
This is a very deep, sensitive album, covering the glory days of touring through to many of the current events which are causing the deep seated feeling that the end is near. The album evolves, but instead of growing and strengthening, it starts off strong and fades to black.
It is however, different sounding and original enough during its high points to be one of the best Neo Prog albums of 2009. The highs are high enough to lift the album above the din.
5. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Well, if you listen to the music and block out some of the lyrics it is very good. The musicians are of the finest caliber of this genre and generation. The first part of the album is very strong, but the strength is not sustained throughout the entire album.
If this is as autobiographical as it seems, one wonders whether this will be Steve’s last album. If not, how do you re-start the next album?
Rating: 7/10 – The music throughout is excellent, except for some of the familiar Neo prog riffs and themes. However, the trad, Neo prog themes are not abused as much as some of the other artists in this genre. There is enough there to remind you, but not so much that it overwhelms some very good original music.
Reviewed by Prof on December 9th, 2009