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(75:07; Melodic Revolution Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. War Song 19:21 2. Into the Lair 9:00 3. Chasing the Lesser Light 20:45 4. Epistle 6:35 5. The Face of Life 19:26 LINEUP: Mike Visaggio - keyboards Michael Murray - drums Mark Tupko - bass St. John Coleman - vocals Peter Matuchniak - guitars
Prolusion. US band KINETIC ELEMENT are fast approaching their 15th anniversary as a band unit, with composer and band leader Mike Visaggio the constant in this band and with other members coming and going a bit over the years. Following three studio albums and a growing amount of acclaim, as well as a line-up that appears to have solidified, it was decided that Kinetic Element were due for their first live album in 2020. The CD is simply called "Live From New York", and was released through US label Melodic Revolution Records.
Analysis. Kinetic Element is a band that have made their reputation as explorers of what one might call retro-oriented progressive rock. Band leader Visaggio has his sight firmly focused on the 1970's when composing material, and besides being mainly keyboards driven he does tend to feature planned as well as accidental nods to a wide array of the classic era of symphonic progressive rock bands. Style isn't perhaps all that important to describe on a live album, as one might presume that those with the strongest interest in such excursions will be existing fans, but those with a fascination for Camel, Genesis and Yes will all find material here that will tickle their fancy and play upon familiarity. Some slight deviations appear here and there, with possible fragrances of ELP and arguably even Atomic Rooster making appearances, and even a section with more than a fleeting resemblance to classic era Eloy. Furthermore, there are certain passages that does have some neo-progressive undertones, and other parts indicate a familiarity with certain composers of classical music. This is probably the best live performance I have heard by Kinetic Element as a band unit. The rhythm section is solid, Mike has a fluent hand at the keyboards, and the mix is set just about right as well. The addition of guitarist Matuchniak have added an extra dimension to the band sound as well, with the dynamics becoming better due to various subtle details and elements he provides as an instrumentalist that strengthens the harmonies, emphasize certain contrasts as well as spicing up the arrangements with a vast array of subtle nuances. A good example of how a high quality musician can elevate a band on to a higher level. That being said, there is a divisive element at hand here too, and that element are the lead vocals. Many of the last few albums I have reviewed have had a divisive or detrimental vocal element as a part of the totality, and this is very much the case on this occasion too. Coleman does deliver in intensity and emotion, so those who primarily focus on that aspect of the lead vocals will enjoy his delivery too. But for my sake I notice strained higher notes, pitch and tone not quite in harmony with the music as well as occasional lapses in tone control. Coleman isn't a poor vocalist as such, he has a fine range and a good vocal core, but in part he comes across as untrained and unschooled, and in part also as a vocalist trying to deliver lines outside of the range he does control and master. I do wonder how much time the band have used to rehearse and develop vocal lines suitable for Coleman's voice though, as I can easily hear that he has the talent to be a far better singer than how he comes across on this album and this performance.
Conclusion. Kinetic Element has become a rather popular band in some circles among fans of 70's era symphonic progressive rock, and the musicians deliver a quality performance here that will please fans of bands such as Camel, Genesis and Yes quite a bit. The vocals will be very much the one element that will make this live album a hit or a miss though, and while my experience is that this is a detrimental aspect of this live album others may feel otherwise. Hence this is very much a case of try before you buy, to see whether or not you enjoy Kinetic Element as of 2020 and then the vocals here in particular. For those who enjoy the lead vocals, this albums will most likely be regarded as quite the nice little gem, especially if you know and love you retro-oriented progressive rock. For people like myself that cannot overlook the vocal aspect of this album this is a production that probably won't be all that interesting.
Progmessor: December 2020
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