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Corvus Stone - Corvus Stone CD (album) cover


Corvus Stone


Crossover Prog

3.84 | 178 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars I was introduced to the music of Corvus Stone through their second album. Though I'd read reviews that called the music eclectic and because of that I had expected a disjointed album trying to cover everything, I was actually very pleased to hear an album that exhibited variety as well as cohesion. The band had an established sound and they could do a lot with it. Different guest vocalists augmented the sound palette of the album with their individual voices. After some time, I was fortunate enough to get hold of a copy of the debut album. How would I like it? Some reviews said it was more like an album of demos.

I have to admit that it has taken me time to get into this one. That is not a bad thing, of course, as sometimes albums that need time to grow on you turn out to better the more memorable ones. But I also went off exploring other areas of music which called more for my attention shortly after acquiring a copy of 'Corvus Stone'. So I didn't have the mindset for really listening to the music. Also, the album is long. When I left my house in the morning and pushed 'play' I would still be listening to 'Cinema' by the time I reached work. There were yet three more tracks to go!

Now I have finally had the chance and the desire to listen carefully and carve out an opinion of this album, albeit the last two listens were done piecemeal and not in one sitting.

First, let me say that the sound of the band is there and intact on the debut right from the start. Colin Tench's unmistakable guitar playing, with his occasional salute to Ritchie Blackmore, is perhaps the easiest to pick out (so to speak). He has quite a large bag of tricks which he employs with great skill and cunning. Keyboardist Pasi Koivu also takes the lead often and provides plenty of textures and atmospheres. Bassist Petri Lemmy Lindstrom wields the bass and rumbles to the forefront from time to time, most notably for me in 'Cinema' and 'Moron Season'. And drummer Robert Wolff, who was not yet a full member of the band until near the end, even gets his own drum solo. There are two guest vocalists this time, unlike the sophomore album which features more singers.

The album includes fewer songs and more instrumentals. In fact, there are only four songs: 'Ice King', 'Moron Season', 'Lost and Found', and 'You're So Wrong', which is a cover of a song by Black Widow. The rest is all instrumental, though with the occasional weird spoken line or word as in 'Jussi Pussi'.

Though the album begins sounding like Corvus Stone alright, I find that the first few tracks often pass by without my mind latching on to anything permanently. It's as if the band are still trying to work out exactly how they will use their individual talents and they are striving to establish what Corvus Stone should be. The band's theme song is where the first of the progressive instrumentals really catch my radar. But then we enter the beginning of the more experimental stage of the album. The music begins to move ahead here with a guitar and organ rocker 'Moron Season'. Now 'Horizon' and the short but beautiful instrumental 'Intermission' begin to bring the album into form. Things get weird by 'Jussi Pussi' but next up, 'Iron Pillows' brings us back to familiar prog land. From here on in there are plenty of ear-catching moments and songs and instrumentals that demand replays.

I have now heard this album several times through since first acquiring it and it is indeed growing on me. To the credit of the band, they sound like they are composing music that they enjoy playing. They are not overly technical but they use their individual and combined skills to make it sound like they are serious about having fun with music. As an analogy, I'll use a box of crayons. Some bands start with a big box of 24 colours and try to cover a large sonic palette. Others have a 12-colour box and use the colours to create a landscape of various tones. Corvus Stone sound to me as though they had only a box of basic 8 colours and they start out the album really working on how to get the most out of their colours. By the middle of the album, there's more experimentation and then they have found to best mix their colours in order to create colours they didn't have. In other words, you won't find cello, oboe, harpsichord, ulleann pipes, or bouzouki being played. Instead you'll find a band that works hard at being creative, versatile, and interesting with the instruments they are each individually good at playing.

For me the hardest hurdles to overcome are the selection of keyboard sounds on some tracks and the sheer number of tracks, especially instrumentals. The keyboards occasionally sound too much like supermarket Muzak to me and it makes the band sound like they are doing a Muzak cover of an original song that possibly sounded better. Thankfully, they are some other much better sounding keyboard solos that rescue that aspect of the music.

The thing with the instrumentals for me is that they often feature guitar and keyboard solos and there are times when I don't feel the solos are as inspired as I came to expect after hearing the second album. For many years before I had kids, I would sit up at night with my guitar and attempt to solo along freely to songs and there were moments when I really felt I had hit a sweet spot, when I felt I had just played something soul tweaking. One time I composed a simple piece of music on the keyboard at the school where I worked and recorded it to minidisk and took it home where I tried to come up with a guitar solo that I could play to the music for the staff Christmas party. The notes were all in key and the solo began as simple and built up, but I couldn't feel any wow factor. It was just composed and played very methodically. Sometimes I feel the solos of 'Corvus Stone', in particular the keyboard solos but occasionally something on guitar as well, are like my humble composition of years back ' the notes are in place and follow the music but in the end there's no fiery moment of 'oh, yes, that's awesome.'

Wrapping this up, this album is a great start, setting Corvus Stone firmly on the route they would continue to follow, but there was a bit of a shaky beginning where the boat seemed to veer a little left and right before they got it firmly on course. By the second half of the album they got sailing under clear skies with a stiff wind bolstering their sails. From there on they would be in full sail in time for 'Corvus Stone II'.

I find myself hesitating to give this a firm four stars but three stars is only worthy of a few tracks, mostly near the beginning. I gave the second album four stars easily and I like it much better. Then my four-star rating here is with a twinge of hesitation, more like a 70-75/100. Perhaps I need to reassess my rating of 'Corvus Stone II', to which I would give somewhere around 85-90/100. Or perhaps with further listens this will grow on me even more.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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