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Red Sand - Overall Review

Prolusion. RED SAND is a young band from Canada with two studio albums to their credit: "Mirror of Insanity" (2004) and "Gentry" (released last November). Apart from the CDs, the promo package includes quite a large sketchbook, which is done with loving care and is filled with the reviews of the band's first outing taken from various paper and online resources, most being turned into English via an automatic translator. However, the album doesn't shed any light on the band's history.

2004 - "Mirror of Insanity" (40 min, 'Red Sand')
***

TRACK LIST:

1.  Blame 12:08
2.  Children Memory 10:04
3.  Mirror of Insanity 14:47
4.  Craule 2:48

LINEUP:

Simon Caron - guitars
Perry Angelillo - drums
Stephane D - keyboards
Hemel - vocals
Yan Cole - bass 

Analysis. What is immediately striking is that Red Sand's logo is designed the very same way as the one Marillion used until the '90s. That said, you could guess by the look of a cover of the CD. So there was no special necessity for me to read the reviews in the press kit to know where this band draw their inspiration from already prior to listening to the album. The times are changing, a man too. I hate writing cruelly critical reviews for a while now, wishing to support everything progressive in music, but this is not such a case, and I feel I'll be unable to fully restrain myself from emotions. I can't label Red Sand's "Mirror of Insanity" otherwise than as regressive music, despite the fact that it is certainly not devoid of features that are traditionally regarded as progressive. With the exception of the brief last song Craule, to which I'll return below, each of the tracks on this album is just moulded upon those from the Fish-era Marillion. Everything - from an overall compositional approach to the construction of any particular solo - Red Sand have shamelessly stolen from the Neo Heroes. It would've been all right with me (really) had they crafted a true remake of Marillion's classic stuff and were in every respect on a par with their idols, but they could only have accurately reproduced the sound of the legend. The music as such abounds in repetitions and is simpler than almost anything by Marillion in the '80s. What's central however is that it's just soulless and, therefore, devoid of any magnetic power. The men are careful while imitating the style that their benefactors have played and sung in at the heyday of their career, but that's all. This is not a case to talk about virtuosity or taste. The longer three pieces, Blame, Children Memory and the title track, differ among themselves only in mood, and how can it be otherwise if all are compiled of light variations on themes ripped off from the first four albums by Marillion? The colors of melancholy are prevalent on the former, while the other two are often quite affirmative in character (especially in the vocal sections), which is explained by the material used: Emerald Lies, Script for a Jesters Tear and the like depressive songs have served as a basis for Blame, and Market Square Heroes, Incommunicado, The White Flag, etc for Children Memory and Mirror of Insanity. Sure, the vocalist Hemel apes Fish, but his singing is much less emotional, it doesn't touch my soul. Finally Craule. This is a light acoustic guitar-laden ballad with no drums and is the only song that doesn't remind me of Marillion. However it's too traditional and schematic to perceive it as anything special.

2005 - "Gentry" (46 min, 'Red Sand')
***+

TRACK LIST: 

1.  Submissive 18:06
2.  Gentry 5:28
3.  Very Strange 19:03
4.  The Voice 4:00

LINEUP:

Simon Caron - guitars
Perry Angelillo - drums
Steff - vocals
Pierre Missicotte - keyboards
Matthew Gosselin - bass

Analysis. There is not much to say about "Gentry". All the music and lyrics on both of Red Sand's albums are credited to one man, guitarist Simon Caron, so it's no surprise that they have much common ground with each other, although the band's personnel have undergone solid changes since the release of the first one (only Caron and drummer Perry Angelillo remained). New singer Steff is keen on 'fishism' even more than his predecessor, the number of vulgarisms in lyrics having grown. These are still various f***g matters: life, world etc and so on. It's just the right time to note that Fish always considered the use of vulgarities beneath his dignity. Still, the difference between the songs touches mainly only their emotional specter, and while the Marillion canvases are here in places intermixed with those of Genesis, this factor shouldn't be regarded as an achievement of course. The epics, Submissive and Very Strange, are painted mostly with dark and dramatic colors this time around, while the ballads, the title track and The Voice, are still filled with a quite light and peaceful atmosphere. As the curtain falls I'd like to mention that the only original and more or less inventive voice in this show is bassist Matthew Gosselin.

Conclusion. There are hundreds of bands in, say, the recent history of Prog that have set themselves the strange task of playing variations on the music of their idols, but few have managed to be on par with them in all senses. Red Sand aren't in the latter category and are just a pale shade of Marillion. Well, it would be unfair not to notice that on the pan-instrumental level, "Gentry" is a somewhat more varied album than "Mirror of Insanity", which finds its reflection in the rating.

VM: June 16 & 17, 2006


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