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(69:16, ‘Kinetic Element’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Riding in Time 9.06 2. The Ascent 8.21 3. Now and Forever 7.29 4. Peace of Mind, Peace of Heart 12.22 5. Meditation 5.54 6. Reconciliation 16.08 7. See the Children 9.58 LINEUP: Mike Visaggio – lead vocals; piano, organ, synthesizer, Mellotron Todd Russell – guitars Tony D'Amato – bass Michael Murray – drums; backing vocals
Prolusion. Based in Richmond, Virginia (USA), KINETIC ELEMENT was originally formed in September 2006 as a vehicle for the compositions of multi-instrumentalist Mike Visaggio. Current guitarist Todd Russell joined the band in 2008. “Powered by Light”, their debut album, was released in September 2009. Since their inception, Kinetic Element have been playing concerts on the East Coast of the US and in Canada (including an appearance at the ProgDay Festival Pre-Show in 2008), and supporting acts such as Circa and IZZ.
Analysis. With six out of seven tracks over the 7-minute mark and two ‘epics’ - not to mention an impressive array of keyboards – Kinetic Element’s debut album, “Powered by Light”, stands firmly and proudly in traditional symphonic prog territory - unlike other outfits that try to present themselves as innovative (even when the facts say otherwise). Now, innovative is something that Kinetic Element are not, nor do they pretend to be – which is in a way quite refreshing. They are the kind of band that will send the crowds at any nostalgia-based prog event into fits of delight, though they will equally obviously fly under the radar of the more contemporary-oriented listeners. While I could not in all honesty state that Kinetic Element’s music rocks my world – since, with the years, my interests have increasingly moved closer to the more experimental fringes of the prog scene, and unabashedly retro offerings tend to leave me a bit cold – I also pride myself on being as fair-minded as I can, and finding merit when it is due. Indeed, though often rather derivative (the Yes influence being particularly evident to these ears), “Powered by Light” contains some excellent playing, and is a real treat for lovers of classic prog keyboards. Mike Visaggio is obviously dedicated to his craft, and his handling of the various instruments is remarkably accomplished. His vocals, on the other hand, while perfectly adequate, are a bit one-dimensional, though not really detracting from the music. The other band members are no slouches either, lending their considerable experience to the creation of an organic whole. If I was asked to describe “Powered by Light” with a single adjective, I would probably choose ‘solid’. While far too many albums present a couple of peaks, with the rest of the disc descending into mediocrity, or even coming unglued, this one is quite a cohesive effort, though somewhat overlong. The only track which, in my view, does not add a lot to the overall fabric of the disc (even if it provides a welcome pause from the symphonic grandeur of the rest) is the instrumental Meditation, a gentle acoustic piece composed and performed by the band’s newest member, guitarist Todd Russell. The two epics are nicely structured, with lush keyboard passages balanced by vocal sections and quieter acoustic interludes, and spiced up by jazzy and bluesy nuances that temper the occasional bombast of the unleashed keyboards. Peace of Mind, Peace of Heart can sometimes bring Kansas to mind, especially in the emphatic vocals and grandiose synth flights; while the 16-minute Reconciliation offers some noteworthy examples of piano-guitar interplay in pure Yes style. Comparisons with the legendary British band crop up rather frequently while listening to the album, though Kinetic Element’s approach mostly lacks the angular, almost metallic elements so often present in Yes’s output. Interestingly, though, some occasional metal-like suggestions lurk in the energetic riffing of album closer See the Children, offset by some beautifully melodic soloing reminiscent of Steve Hackett’s style. While the album’s lyrical content is quite clearly geared towards Christianity, luckily Visaggio and his cohorts avoid shoving the religious message down the listeners’ throats as forcefully as other Christian bands do – so that most listeners will be able to enjoy “Powered by Light” without feeling threatened by any ideological agenda. Even without any pretensions to breaking new ground, Kinetic Element have managed to produce a balanced, well-crafted album of appealingly old-fashioned symphonic progressive rock.
Conclusion. In spite of its often derivative nature, “Powered by Light” is a very well-executed album, and a real keyboard lover’s dream. Brimming with fluid melodies, and devoid of any jarring features, it is sure to be appreciated by fans of traditional symphonic progressive rock, while those expecting innovation are bound to be disappointed. In any case, this is a satisfactory debut from a well-honed group of musicians.
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