GRACE AND FIRE – ELYSIUM – OOB RECORDS
As is my preference when listening to music, I read the press release only when it was time to write the review, so when playing this I was intrigued to hear the neo/melodic rock crossover sound of this new band and my thoughts immediately when to late Nineties Galahad. The keyboards are an important part of the overall sound, the guitars crunch nicely, and there are great vocals while the production is superb. I soon realised why the latter was the case as Karl Groom (Threshold) was involved, and I have been a fan of his skills behind the desk for 30 years. Then I looked at the band itself which was formed by André Saint (vocals) and Aaron Gidney (guitars, Chapman Stick) who then brought in Tim Ashton on bass and drummer Graham Brown. I know Brown from the excellent Cairo, but Tim Ashton? I first heard Tim on Galahad’s wonderful ‘Nothing Is Written’ and saw him play a few times back then before he moved to Japan, only to return later and rejoin the band for ‘Seas of Change’ before departing again. I honestly thought Tim had left music behind, so to see him on this was somewhat surprising. He was not in Galahad during the musical period this band reminds me of, but there are some obvious influences. No keyboard player though, even though it is important to their sound (and their website shows five members), so we have guests in Gary Marsh (Tiger Moth Tales/Red Bazar) and Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater/Sons of Apollo) while there are also two additional guest singers in Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen) and Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen among many others).
Given the background of all those involved it is no surprise whatsoever that this is a polished release, what is more surprising is the lack of reviews for it on PA! True, this is a hybrid and it is possible it is too prog for those who enjoy melodic rock, and too rock for those into prog, but to me it is a very fine album indeed. This never comes across as a debut, but from a seasoned band who have been honing their craft for many years. It is a very easy album to listen to, and I discovered the more I played it the more layers there are to discover. At times we have both piano and keyboards, and virtually no guitars, while at others that is the instrument which is right in your face. All singers take lead roles, with André obviously being the main, but they use the different vocal styles to great effect to add harshness or take the music in a slightly different direction.
This is an album which I am sure is going to be even punchier and more dramatic in a live environment and is something which fans of this music hybrid is sure to enjoy as it is forceful, powerful, dynamic and packed full of real songs with great hooks.
8/10 by Kev Rowland