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Panic Room - Incarnate CD (album) cover


Panic Room


Crossover Prog

3.71 | 73 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I am on record for having anointed 2012's "Skin" as one of the best prog albums in recent memory, a seductive selection of heart stopping tunes, played by some of the finest lesser- known musicians on the planet. This was a complete package, amazing artwork, crystal clear production, expert technique and seamless songs that simply charmed me to no end. Firstly, there is such a thing as eye and ear candy, her name is Anne-Marie Helder, a beauty with a gorgeous voice, both powerful and evocative, suave and forceful. She can hush, she can rush, growl and howl are her fortes. Her reputation has grown by leaps and bounds, a perennial vocal queen for the prog throne. She has the tools to be the next Kate Bush, and that is saying something! Next up, Gavin John Griffiths is perhaps Britain's current master prog drummer, having pummeled with Fish, Mostly Autumn, Iain Jennings and Karnataka. He has a no nonsense style, solid, masculine and highly rhythmic, providing a foundation that breathes, pants and shrugs eloquently with the material. Jonathan Edwards is an accomplished keyboardist, always elegantly adorning instead of showing off his many skills. His piano work in particular is noteworthy. Bassist Yatim Halimi is a find, a sensational lo-end purveyor, who adds a great sense of lyrical playing to his repertoire, including fretless rampages that will seek out attention. New recruit Adam O'Sullivan takes over the hallowed Paul Davies' role as lead guitarman, a hard act to follow as Davies was a tour de force player, famous for more substance than flash, thus fitting the music perfectly. Adam does very nicely indeed.

I am proud to report that "Incarnate" is a fine follow up to the previous 'dermal' masterpiece ("Skin" is just timeless!), the talent here just too impeccable for any possibility of failure or disappointment. The material is first rate, a fine panorama of various sounds, moods and tones that all seem to fit perfectly in synch with each other as well as a whole, a hallmark feature of "Skin". Now, please take into consideration that this is not going to be a synth solo festival, shredding effect-laden ping-pong guitar duels that feature every pedal known to man or bombastic 6 part suites that rekindle some medieval fairy tale. No, only majestic songs that exude class and quality, fully bathing in prog gloss and shimmering with utter beauty. That being clear, the three epic 7 minute + tracks are clearly the finest selections here, the sumptuous title track, as well as the devilishly charming "Into Temptation" and the colossal finale "Dust" are just impeccable musical statements that transcend musical borders, styles and genres. The violin is gone but the music and the lyrics, phew!

Immediate kick into overdrive with the impeccably visceral "Velocity", a speedy little ditty that charms, cajoles and caresses adroitly, a cool riff and cooler groove makes this an ear- opening statement. Ladies and gentlemen, this album is going to kick your behind something fierce because you won't expect anything surpassing "Skin". Well guess what? All the ingredients are in place for a tremendous ride with Anne ?Marie belting out intense lyrics and impassioned emotions. Explosive!

"Start the Sound" is perhaps closer to classic Karnataka but that's where three of these musicians cut their teeth, as a unit for a long time. The chorus is celestial, soaring like a massive rainbow of kaleidoscope colours, showing once and for all that simple melody can be just as poignant as complex rifferama, sugared by glossy orchestrations that amplify the ache. Bold and beautiful!

The emphatic title track swirls and simmers like some slow-acting soporific anesthesia, the electric piano taking over the reins and leading the whispering vocal prowess, unleashing a heady symphonic barrage that sparkles in the rain. Another fine example of how well thought out the melodies are and the level of build-up needed to give them emphasis. Jonathan Edwards certainly excels in the arranging department! The spiraling ivory keys reveal an inner revelation of eternity, as Helder wails unremittingly. Addictive!

Breathless vocals are splattered all over "Nothing New", a method that agrees very nicely with Miss Helder, highlighting a bluesy guitar that shrouds the fragility of the theme. Cello and viola agree to strengthen the majesty of the arrangement, the orchestrations again bowing to the audience. Edwards does a little piano etude, while O'Sullivan does a few zesty guitar pirouettes. Mesmerizing!

The splashy "Waterfall" could have been a Supertramp song, it's that good! Very English, quite angelic and absolutely anthemic. This could be in a queue, after the classic "Dreamer". Set up the premise properly and then, infuse a rollicking along bass line, emotive e-piano and a good steady beat. Cap that off with another vocal performance from Helder and here is another one slotted "into the old onion bag".

The heavenly "Into Temptation" needs more words, a thoroughly enticing Celtic-prog tinged style that should have been recent the Iona, a towering voice that emotes at the deepest level, almost spiritual but somehow wilder as well. Halimi and Griffiths really braise nicely, very secure and confident in their buzz, an articulate and muscular combo that is intoxicating (throughout the album, BTW!), while O'Sullivan does some slick Phil Manzanera-style licks. Loads of symphonics only escalate the pleasure, one of the finest prog songs ever. World class, truly!

"All That We Are" is a song for the ages, smooth as silk, bluesy, rocky, folksy, pure unadulterated class. Think along the lines of Squeeze and even Stealy Dan with torch song tendencies, full of restrained melodrama in a Hollywoodian setting. Helder shows her mettle and her control is full ON, easily convincing the listener like some actor nailing the scene, gently secure. In a normal world, this would be a galactic hit, rendered by all the glittering stars, Stunning!

The glittering beat extolled in "Searching" is a fine example of the genius presented here, a lovely melody wrapped in dense keys, hard drums and a sultry vocal that would make Ann Wilson (Heart) turn green with envy! The mood is palpitating, in a sonically erotic way, the music being utterly carnal but in seduction mode, haunting the soul with whispered longing. If I play this for a lady friend ?.well,?.she melts right into my arms, ready to 'drown in a sea of love' (a song by Irish pop band the Adventures, I believe) ! Beautiful love songs with deep meaning get the girls every time, as they should always remain the eternal optimists and yearn to become strong and happy women. Astonishing!

Need I doubt that "Close the Door" is anything more than the same scintillating quality of the previous tracks, another absolute winner that has all kinds of emotive ties to everything from Donovan to Roxy Music with a little Linda Ronstadt thrown in for good measure? Yes and more, quality my friends, sheer quality! Like a swing between two maple trees, the summer wind blowing gently, the song holds on to all that we need to sway serenely, in raptured delight. Transcendental!

To end on a song like "Dust" requires a lot of guts as it tackles atmospheric experimentation that winks at This Mortal Coil or Dead Can Dance phased in spectral sheen and neo-gothic grandeur. The piano is cemetery somber, the axe tortured into brief spasms of electricity, Edwards really putting out all the stops on his keys and a schizoid pace that is unbending and unending. Helder diversifies by treating her voice accordingly and howling when need in the more Wagnerian exit. Frightening!

I am a big fan, so I am obviously and unashamedly biased and perhaps even in love with this kind of very romantic and sexy prog. Being a long-time and proud Roxy Music fan, what would you expect, a swerve into math-rock ? Nope, but Panic Room has all the makings of a perfect soundtrack for modern lovers looking beyond the accessible and yearning to venture into the mystical world of progressive enchantment. Far more elegant than any other female fronted band anywhere, Panic Room is that emotional oasis that guarantees keeping the ugly outside world unable to enter one's inner world.

5 Flesh and bloods

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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