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(59:19; Progressive Promotion Records)
Track list: 1. Behind the Veil (Ghosts, Pt. 2) 8:54 2. The Hidden Muse (Ghosts, Pt. 3) 6:42 - The Choice (Ghosts, Pt. 4) 3. I. Strange Battlefield 3:47 4. II. A Light Appeared 1:29 5. III. Ghost's Creepy Voice 1:45 6. IV. The Fight 4:36 7. V. No Compromise 1:28 8. VI. The Silent Shroud 3:36 9. Moons Ago (Ghosts, Pt. 5) 7:09 - Nowhere Highway (Ghosts, Pt. 6) 10. I. Princes Street 3:53 11. II. Emptiness 2:24 12. III. The Muse's Caress 1:16 13. IV. Wandering 1:26 14. V. The Holy Glow 1:44 15. VI. Lost in Time 2:41 16. VII. Virtual Sunset 6:29 LINEUP: Jack Daly - vocals Philippe Benabes - keyboards Bruno Pegues - guitars Etienne Damin - bass, guitars, vocals Didier Pegues - drums, keyboards with: Michel Cerroni - voice, vocals Claudini Istria - vocals Marie Pascale Vironneau - violin Thierry Lalet - flute
Prolusion. French band EYE 2 EYE have been an ongoing unit ever since 2003, and have been releasing new music every few years since their debut album "One in Every Crowd" appeared back in 2006. "Nowhere Highway" is their fifth full length studio production, and was released through German label Progressive Promotion Records in December 2020.
Analysis. Eye 2 Eye is among those bands that have always been regarded as a neo-progressive rock band, and to my ears that is still very much the case also in 2020. The music is atmospheric laden, and with a stronger orientation towards creating strong and distinct moods by way of keyboards and guitars than to craft those moods with a direct association towards classical symphonic music or a similar sound to the symphonic progressive rock bands of the 70's. In this case I'd describe this as an album that is closer to the neo-progressive bands of the 90's in sound rather than the artists that was first given this moniker back in the 1980's, closer to the likes of Pendragon than to Marillion if you like. This latest album is a conceptual one, and contains chapters to through 6 of a story whose first chapter appeared on the band's previous album "The Light Bearer". To my mind it is an odd choice to do it this way, especially since there was available space to include also the first chapter on this album. Of course, that also means that dedicated fans of conceptual creations will feel the need to listen to the one part missing from this production, which may have some positive sides to it. The music here is pretty much what you would expect by a band described in the manner above. The songs alternate between different sections with variations in pace and intensity, with sparse, delicate passages and atmospheric laden borderline ambient interludes on one hand to majestic, layered keyboard driven parts with and without guitar support to create at times stunningly majestic landscapes. String and violin additions, digital for the former and acoustic for the latter, adds an orchestral touch and a haunting touch respectively, including a moment or two with a wee bit of a Kansas feel to them, the organ comes and goes and is central too a few moments of more classic 70's progressive rock sounding bliss, and unless my ears are deceived thew Mellotron is put to good use as well with either that instrument or other effects providing some fine voice-like textures. Atmospheric laden guitar solo sections with both a Gilmourish like approach and a more classic neo-progressive rock orientation are also used liberally throughout. In short: There's a lot to enjoy here for fans of neo-progressive rock, and the compositions strike me as really well put together, structured and laid out in an intelligent and effective manner. My experience as a listener is that there are some weaker aspects to this album as well however, and the sum of these are somewhat detrimental for me, as well as people that listen to music in the same manner I do I suspect. The lead vocals are a bit intense at times, occasionally with a bit too much vibrato to my taste, and will for some be more of an acquired taste. For my taste in music, I thought the rhythm department was a bit too steady going, lacking the finer details and subtle dynamics I tend to have a wish for in music. Both of these are minor details though, as the main issue for me for this album is mix and production. My impression is that the levels of both instruments and vocals are somewhat uneven throughout this album, and an ongoing feature throughout is that the music sounds distanced and muddled. Like the music is played through a filter of some kind. While not terrible it is distracting, and gives the album experience something of an unwanted retro and budget feel in my personal opinion. While perhaps not aspects of an album experience that is all that important to everyone, for some at least this will be a divisive issue, and for audiophiles in particular.
Conclusion. There is a lot of positive to be said about Eye 2 Eye's latest album "Nowhere Highway", and the quality of the songwriting is arguably the aspect of this production that shines the brightest. Those who are in need of 90's era dynamic and majestic neo-progressive rock will find a lot to enjoy about this conceptual creation for sure. The mix and production is a letdown however, so for those who know they need those aspects of an album experience to be of a particular standard this is a production that needs a check to hear if those standards are met - or not. My verdict: Recommended, but with reservations as described.
Progmessor: January 2021
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