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(54:06, Cell 15)
TRACK LIST: 1. Chapter One 9:23 2. Man With a Gun 8:02 3. Shadow Over Me 6:38 4. Mannys Gone Home 5:02 5. Long Way Down 5:13 6. Faith Without Works 9:32 7. The Messenger 10:14 LINEUP: Robert Scott Richardson vocals; keyboards; drums; bass, guitars With: Craig Cady guitars, bass Mike Kupris guitars Steve Clay guitars Ronnie Rhoads guitars Hybrid Ice backing vocals &: TCH Singers backing vocals
Prolusion. The US project CELL 15 is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Robert Scott Richardson, a seasoned musician that has been active since the 80s, first and foremost in the hard rock band Hybrid Ice. Cell 15 is a new project of his, one that started out as a studio-based venture, but that later on has developed into a proper band unit. "Chapter One" is the debut album by this venture, and was self-released in 2014.
Analysis. It soon becomes obvious that Robert is one of those guys that have listened to a lot of progressive rock over the years, and also that he either has taken in what has been going also after the 70s were over or that he's inspired by some of the same types of music as other bands in the progressive rock circuit that have managed to become rather successful. Cue the opening / title track Chapter One, as well as the concluding epic The Messenger, both of them exploring what I'd describe as a typical later day variety of symphonic progressive rock, complete with a liberal array of keyboard textures allowed to rise, soar and shine in several key moments, but also creations that allow some classic hard rock passages, combining the classic guitar and organ combination to be present. Both compositions develop nicely; there's room for some gentler interludes as well, and generally speaking, I found both of them to be comparable with the likes of Magic Pie, and then perhaps the earlier albums by that band first and foremost. Cell 15 doesn't have the impressive vocal harmonies of the pie-loving Norwegians, but in terms of the compositions and music itself they reside in universes rather close to each other. While we get some details of the same general nature here and there, also on the songs in between those, my impression is that many of those take a slight left turn into different waters. The moods are darker, the instrumentation is a bit more atmospheric-laden, and the keyboard arrangements don't dominate quite as much. The David Gilmour-era Pink Floyd is a frequent association here, as is early 80s Eloy. Richardson has something of a brief flirt that may or may not be aimed at the Canterbury tradition tucked into this part of the album as well, and isn't a stranger to include more distinctly blues-oriented sequences and passages with a closer alignment to AOR-meets-hard rock into these compositions either. As this is a concept album, it is tempting to speculate that this is done to emphasize the different aspects and developments of the story being told, and that the choice of having the final track revisiting the landscapes explored on the opening one is a specific choice to take the album experience full circle and to enhance a sense of closure. But planned or accidental, it certainly works that way, and does make an additional impact on the album experience as a whole, even if ever so subtle and for most subconscious too, I'd imagine.
Conclusion. Those who tend to enjoy contemporary progressive rock bands of the kind that look back to both the big bands of yesteryear in that vein as well as to the more sophisticated hard rock bands of the same era for inspiration should find this debut album by Cell 15 to be a compelling one. Personally I'd suggest that those who know and treasure the output of a band like Magic Pie should find this album to be a rewarding experience.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 1, 2017
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