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(50 min, 'Blue Drift')
TRACK LIST: 1. Flight of Doom 4:18 2. Nuclear Train 7:14 3. Deep Space 8:18 4. Digging for Chance 7:04 5. Half Light 3:06 6. The Mariner 21:18 All tracks: by D & J Lodder, except 2 & 5: Blue Drift. Produced by D Lodder. Artwork: C. Masson (The Morrigan). LINEUP: Dave Lodder - electric & acoustic guitars; keyboards John Lodder - fretted & fretless basses Arch - drums & percussion
Prolusion. "Mariner" is the second album by England's BLUE DRIFT, the band that guitarist and keyboardist Dave Lodder formed back in 2002 after he left The Morrigan, with whom he stayed for more than six years. The lineup also includes Dave's brother John on bass and drummer Arch (also of The Morrigan fame). The review of the trio's debut outing, "Cobalt Coast" (2003), can be read by clicking here.
Analysis. "Mariner" is more diverse an album than its predecessor and is rather different from it in general, displaying a noticeable departure from the overall sound laid in the beginning of Blue Drift's activity. The stylistic palette of their music has become wider, and the features of most of the genres that the trio appeals to received a sharpness of shapes, which, in this case, is the same as perfection. The first two compositions, Flight of Doom and Nuclear Train, are especially eloquent in this regard. Here, the music is pronouncedly heavy and intense, representing an amazingly inventive Prog-Metal in almost a pure form, with a minimal use of keyboards and then only as background. Flight of Doom is an apt title, as the piece, despite its diversity, has a certain Doom Metal sense. The second track is probably the most intricate, featuring ever-changing arrangements with plenty of unique, highly memorable guitar solos, which could serve as a training aid for many. Dave Lodder strongly influences the compositions, and the overall sound and style of most of them are mainly determined by his approach to playing guitars and keyboards, which, in turn, depends on his choice of tonality etc. The only really noticeable exception from this rule would be John Lodder's Deep Space (another very appropriate title). With the pulsating solos of bass, setting the tone throughout, and those of guitar and synthesizers weaving fluid patterns around them, this is indeed somewhat a deep Space Rock exploration. Full of pitfalls and unpredictability, Digging For Chance is the real contrasting composition among the first five. It was also penned by John, but here, his passion for cosmology can easily be traced only on the first half of the track, though even there, it's often pressed by Dave's riffing, done much in the vein of Rush this time around. Thankfully, the infected arrangements don't last long. Somewhere in the middle, the trio unexpectedly enters the realm of Jazz-Fusion, Dave often switching over to piano, and Arch providing exclusively complex, angular beats, effectually counteracting the brothers' improvisations. The more the composition unfolds the more unexpected events await the listener. The final part finds the group rushing the heights of Prog-Metal, but very soon, they return to their unique quasi/real Jazz-Fusion formula to carry it throughout the next piece, Half Light. The title track exceeds 20 minutes in duration and is a suite in the concept's truest sense, featuring plenty of different thematic sections with bombastic, quiet and mixed arrangements, thoughtfully composed and excellently executed. Musically, it's somewhat of a container of all the styles the band approached before: guitar Art-Rock, Prog-Metal, Space Rock and Jazz-Fusion, though there also are elements of Symphonic Prog, for the first time appearing in their genuine form. Some certain hints of Rush are available on Mariner too, but overall, this is a highly original stuff, with no lack of intelligence.
Conclusion. The excellence of "Mariner" is that while there is a remarkable track-to-track variety, the consistency of quality over the six tracks remains high. This is a very versatile material, touching several different genres, with no commercial potential. Those into accessible Prog (read: conventional Art-Rock or Neo) should take this into consideration before buying the album. Otherwise, highly recommended.
VM: June 21, 2005
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