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(43:49, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Reality Check 4:55 2. Threads 10:30 3. Falling to Pieces 6:16 4. Traces 7:19 5. Thicker Than Water 14:49 LINEUP: Adrian Jones – guitars, bass; keyboards, programming Brendan Eyre – keyboards Marc Atkinson – vocals Neil Quarrell – bass
Prolusion. The UK act NINE STONES CLOSE was formed in 2008, initially as the creative vehicle of one Adrian Jones, who recorded and released the debut album "St-Lo" himself the same year. Soon after this project developed into a band, late in 2010 this now four-man-strong unit released "Traces". In 2011 they were signed by the US label Progrock Records, which subsequently reissued their sophomore effort.
Analysis. The last few years have seen myriads of bands embracing the progressive rock genre. Following two decades as a strictly underground movement, this style has now come into fashion in a manner and even tabloid music journalists acknowledge the genre these days. And among the many influential modern-day artists who through their career have helped achieve this is Porcupine Tree, a band that these days more and more commonly is cited as an influence by emerging artists, of which Nine Stones Close is one. Opening instrumental Reality Check documents this fairly well with an opening and end theme featuring fragile searching guitar textures and, in between, elongated, majestic riff and keyboard constructions that also document quite nicely another important inspiration for this act, namely later day neo progressive rock, metal-tinged in style, dramatic in expression and almost overblown... in a good way. The following trio of compositions is of a slightly different character, however. Dampened verse parts, emphasizing the subtly rough, tender and fragile lead vocals of Marc Atkinson, are a defining aspect of these efforts. His delivery and timbre are ones that fit perfectly into themes exploring moods of a haunting and melancholic nature. Emotionally laden and with what appears to be a pitch-perfect delivery, he's able to carry these creations with ease, also into chorus parts, sporting a richer, symphonic-tinged sound with layered keyboards as a central part of the arrangements. And those with a soft spot for crying guitar soloing combined with rich symphonic backdrops in a manner akin to late 70's Pink Floyd should get their needs satisfied quite nicely by the instrumental passages of those pieces. Taking this CD to the end is an epic effort that explores a subtly different approach. The opening two-thirds are a development of the fragile, dampened moods that appear to be something of a trademark sound for the band at this stage, evolving into a richer arrangement and a more sudden shift into a style of a much more aggressive nature: Dark-toned compact riff patterns, with a dampened guitar solo texture fluctuating on top, lead vocals with a more distinct and powerful delivery and occasional keyboard textures applied to form a majestic sound with a clear progressive metal orientation. Musically, Nine Stones Close isn't amongst the more challenging of progressive rock acts of today, their chosen territory being one that has a foundation in strong moods, pleasant melodies and emotion-led vocals more than anything else. A brand of art rock that has a wide appeal also outside of the progressive rock universe, and a well-made specimen of this kind at that. Not perfect and a tad too pleasant on occasion, but by and large an interesting production by a skilled band.
Conclusion. The first three bands mentioned as influences on Nine Stones Close Facebook page are Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd and Marillion. Those who like and enjoy this threesome will most likely find Nine Stones Close to be an interesting acquaintance. Other than that, I'd imagine that those who tend to like progressive rock of a melodic and lyrical nature might want to investigate this act.
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