It should come as no surprise to those who follow my reviews here at Prognaut that my musical preference leans towards instrumental music, and I tend to give the most favorable review to instrumental albums. And for one very important reason. A lot of really delightful music has passed through my hands which was ruined by sub-par mediocre vocals. And nothing is more disheartening to a reviewer (or music lover in general) than listening to a potential prog/rock masterpiece marred by the performance of an average (or at worse ... caterwauling) vocalist whose musical range lacks the power and passion to match the magnificent ethereal crescendo of an epic track.
And for that reason I'm always delighted when Ron sends me an instrumental symphonic rock album to review. And even more so when the album is as excellent as "Visions" from the UK duo The Inner Road. "Visions" is the product of the talented duo Steve Gresswell (keyboards, orchestration, bass guitar, drums) and Phil Braithwaite (rhythm and lead guitars) who established The Inner Road as a creative outlet for the overflow of material that didn't fit into the style of music embraced by their UK progressive rock group Coalition.
According to info gleamed from the band's bio page Steve Gresswell started playing professionally with the band Justin Canns at the age of 15. In the ensuing years he performed with the groups Gyppo, Scorpio, Scorpio II, Guardian Angel, The SG Band - and currently Coalition and The Inner Road. He also briefly played keyboards for the group After Dark.
Phil Braithwaite is a well respected guitarist in prog circles performing with a variety of bands including The Phil Braithwaite Band, Phil Braithwaite Trio, Rhapsodaisical, NuRotic, Coalition, El Mahico, Scarlet Moss, Natalie Smith-Phelps Quartet, The Silver Heels, and The Inner Road. And together Gresswell and Braithwaite have created one of the most satisfying albums of 2011. A pure gem from start to finish.
Since the band lacks vocals it's quite easy to compare them to UK instrumental artists like The Enid and Craft, the Hungarian group Solaris, French instrumental artists Edhels, the Canadian group Mind Gallery, the Japanese groups Kenso and Teru's Symphonia, or Djam Karet from the USA; but the material on "Visions" is also reminiscent of those great instrumental passages from old school progressive pioneers Genesis, Camel, Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett, and neo artists Arena, Galahad, IQ, Knight Area, Pallas, and Pendragon. And there are melodic jazzy tracks like the tune "Heaven" which hearkens back to the classic 70s' fusion albums of Klaus Doldinger's group Passport. Masterful work by Gresswell of emulating a smokey sax on the synth. Very nice.
Braithwaite's fretwork should appeal to fans of the great 80s' instrumental guitar driven albums of Joe Satriani ("Not Of This Earth", "Surfing With The Alien", and "Flying In A Blue Dream"), Vinnie Moore ("Mind's Eye" and "Time Odyssey") , and Tony MacAlpine ("Edge Of Insanity" and "Maximum Security").
The twelve tracks range in length from 8:44 ("Dreamcatcher") to 3:50 ("Night Light"), but on average the songs are in the 6 minute range. No 30 minute Flower King type epics ... yet there is a lot of superior high energy musicianship jam packed into each track to satisfy even the most jaded listener.
Once again I find myself highly recommending an instrumental symphonic prog album ... and for good reason. It's excellent!
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on December 6th, 2011