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Fractal Mirror - Garden Of Ghosts CD (album) cover

GARDEN OF GHOSTS

Fractal Mirror

 

Crossover Prog

3.90 | 40 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Jan Scanulfsson
4 stars I bought Fractal Mirror's 2016 album, "Slow Burn 1", after hearing a selection of tracks on internet radio and, finding it thoroughly absorbing, decided to delve into their back catalogue. Their 2014 effort, "Garden of Ghosts", went to the top of my shopping list.

With striking "abstract-figurative" artwork in rich, filtered, hues and extensively illustrated liner notes, it appears Leo, Ed and Frank are determined to cover every base in offering a quality album package. A running time of 64 minutes with eleven tracks described as : "...a loosely connected set of songs focusing on three themes : connections and relationships in the 21st Century, how pervasive technology affects our relationships and how our memory and perspective changes over time." Thought provoking topics from the real world, with concerns of the here-and-now and something we can all relate to.

The opener, "House of Wishes", has something of an 80s Genesis feel with chiming guitars, midtempo groove and clever breakdown and rebuilding phases, as well as a wonderful transition to the outro.

"The Phoenix" is altogether different and cries "epic" from the first few bars. Lost hopes and dashed optimism are portrayed by distant overdriven guitar chords, subtle synth sequences and Mellotron strings. The music takes us down before executing an optimistic rise from the ashes with a fantastic and mysterious turn of events before giving way to a mood of upbeat defiance from Leo and his backing vocalists : " I won't bend, I won't conform". Not giving in to tragedy or loss, but coming back stronger over the course of seven and a half minutes of inspirational progressive rock.

The next four tracks and sixteeen minutes make up "The Powerless Suite" , which concerns itself with the impact of technology on human relationships. Smooth electric piano, Mellotron and tasteful lead guitar, including a country tinged slide feature from Brett Kull, make "Lost in Clouds" a beautifully melancholic excursion before the heavier, overdriven organ and guitar textures of "Solar Flare" take over. There's another 80s Genesis vibe on "The Hive" with its musings on the all-encompassing nature of social media in general and a certain "book of faces" in particular. A playfully bouncy and innocent Tron flute contrasts with an increasingly ominous lyric : "we know where you eat, we know when you sleep, we know what you're thinking". A reminder that the modern telescreen, like its Orwellian ancestor, lacks an off-switch. The suite closes with "Solar Flare Reprise", featuring a wonderful Mellotron cello amongst piano and guitar layers and an atmosphere that I can only describe as elegaic.

The title track, "The Garden", is concerned with the pernicious, stealthy, advance of the ageing process and the sudden realisation of having "gotten older, when is not clear". A descending Beatles-baroque style progression using a straight-four pulse and a novel chordal turnaround keeps the listener on their toes. Listen to the great clean-toned lead guitar from Brett Kull, another highlight in an already outstanding album.

"Orbital View", is an eight minute progressive road-trip with a lazy, hazy Eastern influence, resembling, in places, a lighter "Kashmir". Brian Watson, responsible for the artwork on this album and Slow Burn 1, provides the lyrics with a phrasing style reminding me of 90s Neal Peart. Wonderful backing vocals, percussive extras and clever arranging complete the package.

The Autumnal, nostalgic, atmosphere extends to the next pair of songs, "Event Horizon" and "Legacy" where Leo sings "I wish I could go back, No chance for rehearsals, I didn't always get it right". By this stage the album is inducing a mood similar to that which I experience listening to "And Then There Were Three". A sense of warmth and slightly blurry nostalgia, accepting past events, acknowledging mistakes and imperfections, but coming to terms with them and drawing strength for the future.

The closing track, "Stars", is eight and a half minutes of jaw-droppingly "big music". Musically, lyrically and emotionally, it provides the perfect conclusion to an enthralling collection of songs. Credited guest-personnel includes Larry and Don Fast, Brett Kull and the Stephanus Choir. A moody and atmospheric introduction of rich Mellotron chords with distant guitars, in a Moody Blues or BJH vein, this is classic prog in every sense. Moving through a typically Banksian change-up with chimes, choral groups and soaring lead guitar, Fractal Mirror have a bona fide epic on their hands. "Someday we will all shine, Together again".Once more, we are coming to terms with the loss of loved ones and realising their legacy lives on through the generations. "Stars" is a fine addition to the prog-rock hymnal.

Simply put, "Garden of Ghosts" is a thought provoking, mood-shaping, listening experience with a perfect blend of melodic immediacy and repeated-listening discoveries.

With everything from toe-tapping, singalong optimism to songs that will you stop you in your tracks before reaching for the repeat button, "Garden of Ghosts" is a must-listen for anyone interested in modern progressive rock.

It's difficult to assign a score to any work of art, but for me it has to sit in the 85 to 90% range. Four and a half stars in Progarchives currency.

Jan Scanulfsson | 4/5 |

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