Faint Signal originally came together when a post on Craigslist asked if prog rock was dead in Cincinnati. As a result, Henri Eisenbaum (guitars, keyboards, vocals, percussion) and Randy Campbell (vocals, basses, pedals, keyboards) started working together and in 2014 they released their self-titled debut. I do not know why it took so long for the second album to come out, but in 2018 ‘Formula’ was finally released. This involved nine musicians and five recording studios, and like many these days was supported by a crowdfunding campaign. As a way of paying forward, the band set aside a portion of all proceeds from this release to purchase for instruments for school children and the school music programs. I have never known any music program get the funding they need, as arts seem to be the first things cut in budget rounds, so this is something which definitely strikes a chord with me.
This is polished prog which has a great deal in common with the Nineties American neo-prog scene. When they want to turn up the guitars they do so with gusto, and they immediately reminded me of the lost-lost (and much-missed) Ilúvatar, with some Saga, plenty of Pink Floyd, plus The Flower Kings and post-Neal Spock’s Beard. The songs are well structured, with good vocals, and there is a quirkiness throughout the album, starting with the album artwork itself where we see band member’s heads in jars. I would have preferred more “real” drums on the album, but this is a long-standing gripe of mine and actually the sequenced drums here are not nearly as bad as they could be, I’d just rather have a human at the back as the music to me always seems far more honest and direct. Most songs are relatively concise, there is no room here for the guys to go on extended solos but instead, they concentrate on the job at hand, which makes the album very immediate indeed.
I did see a review that likened these guys to Gandalf’s Fist, and although I do not necessarily agree with it, I can understand where it is coming from as there is a similar approach in some areas. The use of additional musicians just for certain songs really does add to the interest, and the result is something which is incredibly polished and enjoyable from the very first hearing, and that only grows the more time it is played. Great songs, superb vocals, I can only imagine there was a dearth of progressive bands in the area when Henri and Randy first came together given how that transpired, and hope they have inspired many more in their area to get out there as this is a really enjoyable album. Refined, relaxing, I can listen to this all day. This album may have been out for two years, but with no reviews yet on Prog Archives it has been missed by many, and that certainly needs correcting. For all fans of well-structured commercial progressive rock, this is a delight.
8/10 Kev Rowland