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The Twenty Committee - A Lifeblood Psalm CD (album) cover

A LIFEBLOOD PSALM

The Twenty Committee

 

Crossover Prog

3.77 | 59 ratings

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Gallifrey
3 stars Split Throwback

Albums like A Lifeblood Psalm can be difficult to review. I have been sitting on writing this for a while, just because I'm still not entirely certain what my exact opinion of this record is, and reports of this album being an enormous grower from many people whose opinions I respect caused me to maybe give it a few more chances than I normally would. But the more I listen to this album, the more I feel that for every part I like, there's a part I equally dislike, and each subsequent listen has made me enjoy the parts I enjoy even more and dislike the parts I dislike even more, so I'm still in the same place.

A bit of history, this album is the debut of a new group, calling themselves a "committee of musicians" as per the band name, formed by songwriter Geoff Langley in New Jersey. The band has reached some popularity due to connections with progressive rock icon Neal Morse, and I can definitely hear his pervasive influence on this record. For a debut, this is very well recorded, which I think is a huge advantage for these guys. Jerry Guidroz, who has worked on some of my favourite albums from Morse such as Flying Colors and ?, handles the production jobs here, which I am, once again, quite divided on. The instruments are clear and easily recognizable, but the mix often feels incredibly empty, like there are just the core instruments and nothing else.

In terms of the music of this album, it's on the very soft end of progressive rock, leaning towards the throwback style of modern prog in the vein of The Flower Kings and Transatlantic than the true modern styles of The Mars Volta or Porcupine Tree. Although this album isn't strictly either, it has elements of both symphonic prog in the style of Yes and Genesis, and neo-prog in the style of Marillion and IQ, scattered throughout the four full songs here. So, this could be said to be a classic prog album written in the modern era with modern production. Keeping to the classic prog style, as I said before, we only have four songs here (plus an intro). The band has chosen to keep one of their epics (10-minute "Her Voice") as one track, yet split the 22-minute "Knowledge Enterprise" into its five movements.

Throwback albums, as a whole, don't move me that much. I find that modern bands who try and recreate the sounds of long past not only do it with less flair, but end up sounding tired and ancient in their attempts, as well as completely failing to progress the genre in terms of innovation. But, you see, this album is not just a 70's throwback album, it also brings to mind the neo-prog movement of the 80's just as much, so you can imagine my sudden enjoyment at the synths used here. I have never been able to fully explain or understand why I greatly dislike the symphonic music of Yes or Transatlantic or The Flower Kings, yet absolutely love the neo-progressive music of Marillion, IQ and Arena. But in this context, you can imagine me grinning at the synthesisers and soaring guitar lines, yet whenever the warbling noisebox comes back into play, I'm suddenly bored out of my mind.

There are undeniably some good melodies here though, whether or not the delivery is to your liking. Some of these songs even border on pop rock, but the band puts enough instrumental dueling in to remind you that this is anything but simple. My personal favourite is the piano-based central movement of the 22-minute epic, "Tonight". The piano throughout this is probably one of the better things about it; it sticks through the whole record playing backing to most of the music. Shorter track "Airtight" has another great melody, but I feel the vocal performance and recording do it no justice and make it feel weak.

But then there are the things I don't like. This album is poppy, I've said that before, but there are moments where this gets dangerously close to country-pop. I mean, the lead hook on "How Wonderful" sounds directly off a Shania Twain record, and as someone who was forced to listen to that trite for my entire childhood, it doesn't bring good memories. I feel many of the harmonizing, as well as the fact that the vocalist has one mode of singing for the whole record, come off as incredibly cheesy, and not in a good way. The other big thing for me, is that when this band wanks, they wank hard. The solos and instrumental sections on this are embarrassingly messy and unmelodic. "Her Voice" actually starts out quite nice, but it dissolves quickly into a mess of 'solos' that involve flying all over the place as fast as you can. Not even Dream Theater has this much wank.

A Lifeblood Psalm holds some nice melodies, good structures and progressions, and some quite good music, but its delivery and performance, as well as choice of instruments and production techniques, just makes it feel tired in comparison to so many modern bands that are moving forward with progressive rock. There is definitely promise here, in the performances and songwriting, but I feel the delivery needs to be a bit more unique to get anywhere in my books.

5.6

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

Gallifrey | 3/5 |

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