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Monarch Trail - Skye CD (album) cover


Monarch Trail



3.97 | 133 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars On their first album `Skye', Monarch Trail, a trio based around Dino Verginella's bass, Ken Baird's keyboards/vocals and Chris Lamont's drumming, offer exquisite and dynamic symphonic/Nep prog work that calls to mind modern symphonic giants Glass Hammer, Neo bands such as I.Q and Jadis, and the romantic tones of Camel. Four extended pieces ranging between 6 and 20 minutes with lengthy instrumental passages and strong vocal melodies makes their debut album, inspired by the work of artist Annette Roche, a must for fans of this kind of progressive music, and it already sets a high standard for the band right from the start.

Things get off to a slightly rocky start in the first few minutes of opener `Luminescence', but stick with it! It's nice to hear the piece burst into up-tempo life right from the start, with announcing drumming, whirring synths, Ken's vocals and the confident chiming electric guitars instantly reminding of Neo-proggers Jadis. But sadly the first use of the chorus is awkwardly implemented, as it instantly drops the piece down in tempo and it isn't a smooth transition. However, by the half way point, cascading electric guitar runs, ethereal wisps of mighty Mellotron and dazzling keyboard wigouts (reminding me of both the energetic Pendragon debut `The Jewel' and Eloy's deep space soundtracks!) weave together and culminate in an almighty grand choral climax - and all is right in the prog world!

`Silent World' is more of a vocal dominated piece that also jumps back and forth with frequent alternating tempos, Dino's bass gliding like a liquid, glistening piano and scorching electric guitar solos from guest John Mamone race for the heavens. The vocal melodies are strong overall, there's some slight and sprightly jazz drumming near the finale, and I especially enjoy the warm lyric "Take me to the winds where I can feel the air all around embrace me", which creates a nice dreamy atmosphere.

The fully Instrumental `East of Fifty' is truly exquisite, energetic twisting 'n turning electric guitar runs, thick bass murmuring constantly throughout, punchy drumming and non-stop variety of infectious synth soloing. There's a definite foot-tapping quality as this upbeat piece reaches it's end, and it's up there with `N.A.S' from the recent album by RPI band Logos as one of the tastiest instrumental pieces of 2014.

Finally, what symphonic styled prog album would be complete without a 20 minute epic?! `Sky Above the Sun' (man, now there's a title that screams Neal Morse, bet he wished he'd thought of that one!) is an ambitious lengthy closer that moves between grandiose breathtaking majestic passages, softly flowing gentle themes, displaying so much variety and carefully executed transitions between sections. Imperial Mellotron, nimble piano and humming Moogs spiral together, electric guitars take a dramatic harder turn, with the addition of beautiful 12 string classical acoustic to raise the drama. The deeply romantic final few minutes takes on a theatrical Clive Nolan-like theatrical, near-orchestral sweeping quality, and the line "When I was younger, I dreamed of this, distant places I would find..." perfectly sums up the entire album.

OK, so there's little spots here and there where `Skye' is a little rough around the edges. Some of the vocals are more serviceable than inspiring, and there's obvious moments of the kind of `do-it-yourself'/bedroom recording and mixing that shows up on numerous modern prog albums. But there's no ignoring the sheer talent of the band, the instrumental skill on display and the winning melodies. There's also a constant joyful sound woven throughout the music here that should have most listeners grinning wildly!

Put it this way...It took Glass Hammer, making music in a kind of similar style to what's on display here, some years to finally hit gold several albums into their career, but Monarch Trail have hit the ground running and instantly produced a superb and addictive symphonic prog release right as they begin. They've now already set the bar very high for themselves, and once those little kinks mentioned above are worked on, the promise of even better music in the future is assured for this talented group of musicians.

But it's four stars for now, and `Skye' makes Monarch Trail an instant contender as one of the finest modern symphonic prog bands currently doing the rounds. Well done, fellas!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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