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(61:02, 'Crystal Palace')
TRACK LIST: 1. The Darkest Hour 12:46 2. Sons of God 8:50 3. The Human Stain 6:38 4. Drowning on Dry Land 4:10 5. Distant Shores 4:42 6. Damaged Goods 8:04 7. Break My Wings 9:52 8. Cinescope Dreams 5:56 LINEUP: Jens Uwe Strutz – vocals; bass Frank Kohler – keyboards Jurgen Hegner – guitars Feliks Weber – drums
Prolusion. The German band CRYSTAL PALACE has been around in one form or another since the early ‘90s, and can probably best be described as a true underground band. Few people are aware of them in their native Germany, but over the years they have gotten a fair deal of positive press from other countries. "Reset" is their fifth full length production, and was self-released by the band in the spring of 2010.
Analysis. Throughout their career Crystal Palace has been best known for their excursions in the more hard rock-oriented parts of the neo-progressive universe, at least until their fourth, acoustic, album was issued back in 2006. When they return with their first true studio effort since 2003, much has changed in their choice of stylistic expression, and whether it has been planned or is the result of coincidental reasons, this new CD kicks off in a manner which rather reminds one much of Porcupine Tree in general and the album and song Fear of a Blank Planet in particular. The opening track, The Darkest Hour, is a fine effort as such, but perhaps a bit too close to what presumably is in inspiration in overall sound. As this CD unfolds the compositions start merging their past and present sound though, and while all the following tracks aren't as engaging as the epic start of the CD, the level of innovation and creativity picks up. Wandering melodic guitar motifs and symphonic atmospheric backdrops blend in well with the dampened riff constructions and space-tinged textures so much more a feature of the new generation of art rock bands Porcupine Tree is the instigator of, and as both styles have an emphasis on melodies, moods and atmospheres, somewhat different stylistic expressions are a good natural fit. One of the weaker aspects of this CD is the voice of vocalist Strutz. Like many German vocalists, he does have something of a pronunciation issue at times, and he also seems to struggle somewhat with the limitations of his vocal range. A direct result of that is that this is a disc that demands a few listens in order to get accustomed to this particular dimension of the performance; another one is that the weaker tracks perhaps will be perceived as weaker than they normally would. In this case it is the aptly named Damaged Goods that serves as a good example, as far as my own musical taste go, where the chorus part of this track in particular didn't make a positive impression on me.
Conclusion. A few lacklustre tunes aside, this is a pretty good album overall. It's not something to get for those who desire their music to be innovative, cutting edge and challenging, but those who manage to find satisfaction in well made efforts exploring well known musical territories might find this production to be worthwhile. Fans of bands like Porcupine Tree and Sylvan should probably be at the core of the potential audience for Crystal Palace, and are recommended to give this band a chance.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 20, 2010
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