After hearing and really enjoying the recent second album from This Winter Machine, ‘A Tower of Clocks’, I have worked backwards and am now playing their debut from 2017, ‘The Man Who Never Was’. This does have a slightly different line-up from the next album, as here they were a five-piece which later expanded to have a second guitarist, but Al Winter (vocals), Mark Numan (keyboards, backing vocals) and Peter Priestly (bass) are still in the band , while this album also featured Gary Jevon (guitars) and Marcus Murray (drums). Much has been made of fact that the band only got together the year before, and then managed to produce an album like this, and rightly so as it is a delight.
What we have here is a very songs-based neo prog album which could have come out some 25 years earlier. The guitar is used rather sparingly, with somewhat Hackett-like tendencies and nuances, only providing riffs and power chords when the time is right, while the piano/keyboards often provides the melodic lead and the bass provides a different melody altogether. Then on top of it all here are the delicate and delicious vocals of Al Winter, bringing the listener in. While Final Conflict, Pallas and earlier Galahad are obvious reference points, there are also some Genesis and Camel influences as well and the result is an extremely well-crafted and enjoyable album which only gets better with repeated playing. Both this and the follow-up are incredibly immediate, and anyone with a fondness for the Nineties progressive rock scene being brought up to date needs to seek out both albums immediately, if not sooner.
8/10 Kev Rowland