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(70:10, Gentle Art of Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Chasing Better Days 4:53 2. As Heaven Dies 6:22 3. Beautiful Nighmare 11:55 4. Green Way 7:27 5. Sleepless 8:20 6. Stunned by the Silence 7:54 7. Breathe 10:15 8. The System of Events 13:04 LINEUP: Nils Conrad – guitars Frank Kohler – keyboards Frank Brennekam – drums Jens Uwe Strutz – vocals; bass With: Yogi Lang – keyboards Kalle Walner – guitars Colin Edwin – bass
Prolusion. The German band CRYSTAL PALACE has been around for more than twenty years at this point, steadily releasing albums that have been pleasantly received by the ones in the know over the years, but without any measurable success on a strictly commercial level from what I understand. In 2012 the band underwent a slight personnel revolution, with a new drummer and guitarist joining the ranks. This was followed by a deal with the German indie label Gentle Art of Music, which released Crystal Palace's sixth studio album "The System of Events" in the fall of 2013.
Analysis. About a minute into the first song on this album, I noted down Porcupine Tree as a likely influence as well as a direct comparison towards the sound explored. Distant vocals, nervous synth textures, dampened guitar riff arrangements with clever use of impact riffs and a chorus section with a more majestic, beefy arrangement of the compelling variety, with an emphasis on mood and atmosphere throughout. Second track As Heaven Dies continues in that vein, perhaps venturing even closer to the aforementioned comparison with the spirited, playful bass guitar motif that is very much a presence on this composition. Two opening tracks that set the mood and the mode for this album, at least to some extent, and I might add that both of them are well developed, assembled and performed as well. Music that doesn't rely on heavy amounts of innovation admittedly, but is highly enjoyable material nonetheless. As this CD unfolds the next two compositions do take the band in a slightly different direction, as epic length Beautiful Nightmare does incorporate a few sequences reaching outside of the Porcupine Tree sphere of influence, while the gentler, light toned and uplifting number Green Way takes on more of a neo-prog sound. Sleepless does take us back into the realms explored initially though, and most brilliantly so too, I might add, this composition a true delight for just about anyone who enjoy dark realms of the kind Porcupine Tree made a career out of creating. Stunned by the Silence follows next, and while some of these tendencies are present on this composition too, this particular creation does come across as somewhat more of a transitional number, blending the more introverted and brooding Porcupine Tree sound and atmosphere with the more clearly melodic and elegant atmospheres of another band, namely RPWL. And for the concluding two compositions, the comparisons to that veteran German band are unavoidable, at least to my ears. Not quite similar in sound, but with an overall expression fairly close to the more melody based, controlled guitars and keyboards driven escapades of this fine band. As two of RPWL's members contribute on this disc, and Crystal Palace is indeed signed to the record label set up by the very same persons, I guess this isn't a major surprise to anyone who have taken the time to read the album credits. As with the rest of the material on this production, these songs are well made creations, obvious in terms of comparisons for someone like me, but highly enjoyable nonetheless. To the point of meriting a description as accomplished.
Conclusion. Crystal Palace doesn't seek out any new, unfamiliar grounds with their sixth album "The System of Events", a production just about split half and half between Porcupine Tree and RPWL in terms of likely inspirations for the sound, mood and atmospheres explored and with a couple of instances where features from both of these influential bands appear. The compositions are well-made and performed however, a strong production as far as I'm concerned, and as long as you enjoy both of the aforementioned bands you should most likely find this album to be an enjoyable experience.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 6, 2014
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