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Ed Bernard - Polydactyl CD (album) cover


Ed Bernard


Symphonic Prog

3.58 | 22 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars `Polydactyl' is the 2015 debut solo album from Canadian multi-instrumentalist Ed Bernard, known for his association with prog band Druckfarben and both their self-titled and `Second Sound' albums from a few years back. Hardly some meek little low-key singer-songwriter solo album deal, Ed delivers a gutsy and melodic prog/crossover rock album that offers just as much variety and energy as the discs from his band, with mostly vocal-driven pieces full of unexpected direction changes and plenty of dynamic instrumental passages (plus a few choice vocal-free pieces as well), and it also includes contributions from Druckfarben's vocalist Phil Naro, Canadian vintage proggers FM's Cameron Hawkins and others.

Considering he's mostly a one-man-band here, Ed successfully throws in everything from thrashing bass guitar spasms, zippy synth spiralling and wailing electric guitar fusion-flecked fire to the busy album opener `Symfoprogru', with a tough groove plied to the relentless back-and-forth time changes all in just over three minutes! `Derealization' sets a template that much of the rest of the disc follows, a strong melodic tune with busy and diverse heavy instrumental displays throughout, which sometimes reminds of everything from Spock's Beard, Yes' `Union' period (which is not a slight!) and even the busyness of the Liquid Tension Experiment. `Entitled' is a chugging rock tune with Matthew Sweet-like multi-tracked harmonies, and the up- tempo and lively `Eyes Everywhere' holds a strong tune with plenty of slow-burn guitar, purring bass and endless Mellotron bursts. `Running' is another compact epic that bristles with lively acoustic guitar, Mellotron wisps and a soothing inviting vocal with a rich collection of glorious harmonies before diverting into a tougher heavy sounds loaded with thick Hammond organ that almost resembles a lost Spock's Beard piece.

`Withywindle' is a shorter instrumental mostly based around mandolin, acoustic guitar and violin that in any ways serves the same purpose as those solo Steve Howe interlude tracks on so many Yes albums, and it comes to resemble a grand orchestration by its climax, and after a further dramatic and ominous orchestral-like introduction, `1000 Hates' proves to be a warm electric/acoustic rocker that tears through a frantic range of soloing. `The Quiet Race' moves between melancholy and grooving, and has both the above mentioned Naro and Hawkins guesting on backing vocals (with Cameron returning the favour after Ed performed as part of FM for their comeback work `Transformation' in 2015), with 90's onwards sleek King Crimson-esque shimmering guitars laced with unease, and `Bring It Home' is a joyful folky acoustic ballad with a strong melody and silken vocal that ends the album in a very uplifting and sweet manner.

Ed Bernard is a highly skilled musician who has released a very accomplished album here that he should be immensely proud of, one that is easily comparable to the recent Ted Leonard-fronted Spock's Beard albums, only with a slightly little more intimate production and much more busily eclectic, and he achieves a strong balance between enjoyable tunes and prog-rock show-boating (which is not a criticism, it's what we're all here for!). `Polydactyl' will certainly tide fans over until the next Druckfarben album arrives, and crossover-prog fans will likely find plenty to enjoy here as well.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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