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(73:23, Festival Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Charnal House 4:56 2. The Long Sleep 12:25 3. Darkest Sleep 7:09 4. Spiders in Undergrowth 3:05 5. The Hunting of Johnny Eue 11:59 6. Coming Down 14:53 7. Do We Walk in the World? 5:10 8. Lost in Lonely Ghosts 13:43 LINEUP: Cyrus – bass; lead vocals Stewart Bell – keyboards; drums Phil Allen – guitars; backing vocals
Prolusion. The Scottish outfit CITIZEN CAIN (also known as Xitizen Cain and Xitizen Xain) was formed in distant 1982 by bassist, singer, lyricist and songwriter Cyrus Scott. Since then they have released comparatively few albums, as they’ve always been following the dogma of better less but better. The 73-minute “Skies Darken” is their latest outing to date, released in May 2012. It features the same trio of – truly versatile – musicians (see above) that played on its predecessor, "Playing Dead" from 2002. Citizen Cain’s section on this website lists all of the band’s outings with ratings and links to corresponding reviews.
Analysis. The ten year lapse since the band’s previous album has given them plenty of time to put together their powerful sixth effort, one that everyone will agree represents an astonishingly high level of composition and musicianship throughout. The first two of the eight tracks presented, The Charnal House and The Long Sleep, contain no pause between them, appearing as a single multi-sectional suite, which displays diversity as it moves through its length (17:20), one third of it still showing the Peter Gabriel-era Genesis influence (mainly within the vocal sections), another third suggesting totally original symphonic Art-Rock with hints of classical in places, while the rest of it represents a kind of techno-symphonic Prog-Metal, which is in all senses on a par with Dream Theater’s, though the American band never really comes to mind as a reference point. Brilliant vocals, complex guitar riffs, popping bass lines, wonderful piano and synthesizer soloing, clever orchestral arrangements, classical-like interludes, sudden turns in direction: everything a well-versed progressive rock lover wants is here in abundance, in full proportions. As hinted above, within some of its sections the music is very heavy. However, driven by a creative guitar approach which avoids the mindless riffing of many other bands, it concentrates on an ensemble sound, utilizing contrapuntal textures and timbral diversity to a really good effect. The heavier sections are skillfully balanced with more delicate ones, deploying keyboards, strings, and also acoustic guitar (such as in the piece’s final move), plus there are some semi-acoustic passages that don’t involve drums, the turns normally realized with the use of good rhythmic variety. Cyrus still sings very much like Peter Gabriel, but, at the same time, with a deeper sense of drama than probably ever before. The talented instrumental performance (the trio sounds like a real sympho-prog quintet or even a sextet at times) is equally effective at providing a compelling dynamic backdrop for a majestic vocal performance and at realizing the full potential of the well-written instrumental sections. The other three epic-length tracks, The Hunting of Johnny Eue, Lost in Lonely Ghosts and Coming Down, are also suites with multi-layered arrangements and are generally similar to the previously described one, mainly differing from it only by a lesser quantity of the distinctly heavy arrangements, the last of them also finishing as a dark keyboard soundscape accompanied by Cyrus’ narrative and an operatic choir. The remaining three tracks, Darkest Sleep, Spiders in Undergrowth and Do We Walk in the World, are all quieter in nature, revealing a couple of atmospheric landscapes, besides classically sympho-prog arrangements and some quasi-chamber ones as well. While by no means as intricate as the longer tracks, all of them are still good pieces of music.
Conclusion. Citizen Cain appears to be one of those few contemporary British bands that typify what the best of Albion’s Progressive Rock is all about: colorful melodies, profound lyrics, an inclination for subtle and melancholy shadings, powerful symphonism, a little of classically-inspired stuff, plus a technical prog-metal influence (a pleasing addition to its classic style, it’s most vividly presented in the middle of Coming Down). In other words, “Skies Darken” is an album that ignores all of the prevalent neo styles and captures that essence of classic Prog that made bands like Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, Yes, et cetera so special. Top-10-2012
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