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(58:35, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Monsterhead Suite 13:31 2. Satellite 5:06 3. Hollins 10:03 4. Kithara Interludium 7:19 5. Angular World 7:10 6. The Lake 5:14 7. The Secret 12:00 LINEUP: Thomas Doncourt – Mellotron, keyboards; flute Mercury Caronia-IV – drums, percussion David Doig – guitars; saxophone; cello Fred Callan – basses, Taurus pedals Paul Seal – vocals
Prolusion. America’s CATHEDRAL has recently changed its (internationally recognized) status as one of the very best progressive rock one-shots ever. Released precisely thirty years after the band’s legendary debut “Stained Glass Stories”, here is their second album, “The Bridge”, crowning what comes across as the most unexpected comeback in the history of the genre.
Analysis. This recording contains many of the creative aspects that Cathedral has become famed for, e.g. blazing, expressive guitar and bass leads, warm mellotron washes, refined melodies and solid songwriting. However, it also displays some elements that are new to the band’s sound and which may scare away some of their old fans as well as attract new ones. It’s instantly obvious that, just like on “Stained Glass Stories”, the quintet still pays a lot of homage to vintage Progressive, though upon the first spin I also had the impression that they have partly adapted their style to the demands of Neo. However, further explorations showed it was an illusion that, well, I was then reminded of Marillion (circa “Afraid of Sunlight”) too, and my final vision of the album would be as follows: Structurally the music is still most often reminiscent of Yes, but this time more of the legend’s late ‘70s work, such as the second half of “Tormato”, for instance, where the vocal sections quite strongly outweigh the instrumental ones on average. In other words, don’t expect any truly bombastic arrangements, highly intensive maneuvers, driving guitar leads, complicated keyboards grinding or sudden transitions with effectual pace shifts. But although the music is basically slow and vocal-heavy almost throughout, it nevertheless contains enough interesting chord progressions, turns and undercurrents to challenge the progressive ear. Besides, I believe it fully suits the classic art-rock idiom, due to the near-ceaseless soloing activity on the part of each of the players, their ability to weave intricate webs of soloing patterns regardless of a strong vocal presence and their high resourcefulness in that field in general. Only the sole instrumental, the 7+-minute Kithara Interludium, brings me back to the classic Yes legacy. Made up exclusively of acoustic guitar passages – and so properly located right at the core of the recording – it sounds fairly much like a (long, yet truly inventive) variation on Steve Howe’s Mood for a Day from “Fragile”. The other six pieces may seem to be very similar to each other, but should be divided into two parts in my honest opinion. The longest three compositions, The Monsterhead Suite, Hollins and The Secret, taking the first, the third and the last, seventh, position in the track list, respectively, all have some specific features that instantly push them into the category of the Yes-stylized creations, particularly the bass lines and the guitar leads and arpeggios which are patterned after Chris Squire’s and Steve Howe’s, respectively. On the other hand, each also contains a number of harder moves which often come along with jazz-inflected saxophone trills and which don’t arouse any associations, the finishing track being especially rich in those as well as in instrumental intermezzos and glaringly-progressive qualities in general. The only stylistically conventional album by Gryphon, “Treason”, where that English chamber rock ensemble turned to orthodox symphonic Art-Rock (somewhere in the manner of Yes also) with vocals, can serve as another reference point, especially since Paul Seal’s singing here evokes David Oberle’s (who, as many of you are well aware of, is only renowned as a drummer). Unlike the three previously described pieces, all of which display a variety of moods, the remaining songs, Satellite, Angular World and The Lake, are all filled with dramatic as well as distinctly dark emotional colorations. Each draws much less heavily on Yes or any other bands whose influences can be traced in Cathedral’s work in general, revealing at once a more modern and original approach which results in a kind of cyclical set of three or four different themes with plenty of psychedelic, or rather hypnotic, touches. Don’t worry, though: the somewhat repetitive nature of these pieces won’t affect your mind, as the themes themselves shine with their inner flowery as well as gloriousness as such and are touched by the wing of magic, which is already worth much in itself.
Conclusion. This set of seven, stylistically different, tracks, is so surprisingly well compiled and produced that probably any lover of symmetry will find it to be the height of perfection in this respect. While being slightly inferior to its predecessor, “The Bridge” is nevertheless a very solid effort which is in reality much deeper than it may seem to be at first. Generally, it is a rare case that a vocals-based recording makes me feel a desire to play it again after two successive as well as highly attentive listens.
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