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SYNAESTHESIA

Synaesthesia

 

Crossover Prog

3.95 | 129 ratings

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ScorchedFirth
3 stars (7/10)

Picked by 'Classic Rock Presents Prog' magazine as the #1 "Tip For 2014", at the start of the year Synaesthesia now release their self-titled debut. Given a big chance by being put on IQ's GEP label, and then given a shot opening at IQ's legendary christmas bash in De Boerderij (Holland), clearly Mike Holmes has some faith in them, and with good reason.

This band is young, and by that I mean the singer/keyboardist/frontman (Adam Warne) is only 20.

20!

Seriously, I'm impressed. I think we can be pretty sure that Synaesthesia have a lot of potential left to grow into. In fact, you can see how much the band has already grown on their YouTube channel; from their first rehearsal, all the way up the their gig in Holland. It catches them just being people between the songs too, messing around with effect, quoting silly internet memes, listening to "Ever", and I'm sure I saw a Cardiacs shirt at some point (hooray!).

Well with all that hype out the way, why don't I actually tell you what it sounds like? I must admit, I was personally very surprised to see Synaesthesia placed into the crossover sub-genre. Their sound is tied very strongly to Neo-Prog, led by the keys, and should indeed appeal to fans of bands like IQ. The GEP site claims them to have incorporated alt rock into their sound, but personally I don't hear much of it. There are, however, a lot of modern sounds bouncing around along with the classic. A good range in general, especially from the ubiquitous keyboard. It's an album with a huge influence from the 70s and 80s, but there's no way you could mistake it as coming from that era (the modern flourishes and production values ensure this, for one). Maybe Comedy Of Errors or Arena, possibly even Frost*, are good bands to compare Synaesthesia to.

The instrumental skills of the band are very solid, the melodic interplay of keyboard/guitar in particular is just the sort I like in my prog - fiddly synth solo passages and soaring clean guitar solos abound. Vocals, whilst competent and relatively pleasant, maybe a tad unexciting for some compared with the grand Neo-Progressive music. But that can be worked on easily, they just need a bit more range and intensity. Or maybe they could just be framed better, with more varied vocal lines, or some more interesting counterpoints and harmonies or something. Lyrically there's nothing horribly cheesy, but nothing is especially leaping out at me either. Perhaps some further digging is required.

To return to my earlier praise though, I'm really impressed with the keyboards. The atmosphere and the energetic leads both sound very mature and well-studied from the masters. There's a not insignificant amount of the great Martin Orford present, I reckon. In general this ambitious band seems to have done their homework.

In fact, Synaesthesia set their ambitions out on display immediately with the 22 minute six part suite, "Time, Tension & Intervention". I feel kinda predictable saying it, but it is the best track on the album. It's filled with a lot of moods and atmospheres along with some pretty fun instrumental sections. The guitar especially shines when it takes the lead. Perhaps the finale could have been a bit more substantial but overall an excellent start to the album.

The were some other tracks I particularly liked though. The album closer "Life's What You Make Of It", with its nice melodies, and positive vibe to sign off the album with caught my attention easily. On "Epihphany" we see a little bit of the heavier side of the band, along with a genuinely funky interjection (I'd definitely be all for them experimenting with genre a bit more next album). The short instrumental "Noumenon" is also a fun little piece that brings together themes from the album. The other songs are good, but the one's I've mentioned are definitely the strongest.

I can't quite bring myself the rate this as 'excellent' (there is definitely room for this band to grow, and I would presume that they will), but I'm sure that many others are going to, and I fully expect that this album should garner a large amount of attention over this year. If you're looking for a young band with much promise to start off 2014 with, give Synaesthesia a chance.

ScorchedFirth | 3/5 |

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