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Diagonal - Diagonal CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.08 | 231 ratings

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4 stars Review Nš 247

Diagonal is an English progressive rock band that appeared in 2008. The band is based in Brighton and consists of seven piece musicians who include two keyboardists, two guitarists and a reeds player amongst their number. The band's style tends less towards the more symphonic side of the genre popularised by the likes of Genesis and Yes, and more towards the more experimental, avant-garde, jazz-flavoured side. Still, the band manages to keep things pretty accessible at all times. The main influences appear to be Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, whilst heads are nodded to a variety of bands from the Canterbury scene, such as The Soft Machine. There's also a spacey, psychedelic flavour to some of the tracks, which recalls the Syd Barrett's era in Pink Floyd, particularly in the build up of the songs.

Diagonal is, perhaps, the first modern U.K. band that I know which truly capture the essence, atmosphere, and sound of the original progressive rock movement from the 70's, in England. Of course, many other groups before have come along and tried their hand at generating the sound of Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Renaissance, King Crimson, and Van der Graaf Generator, in one way or another. And while all of those groups are worthy of imitation, they only represented a fraction of the original U.K. movement. Of course, they were the ones that made the big time, so it's understandable that they had attracted more admirers than all the others, really.

But, in reality, despite Diagonal has clearly absorbed many of those influences, unlike many of those bands, they only have absorbed that influence, not trying to copy it. And so, with this debut album of Diagonal you can get an entirely new album within an old familiar context. And, because the band has clearly studied this era in depth, not to mention the incorporation of the period instrumentation, the mellotron, the Hammond organ, the Fender Rhodes piano, the fuzz bass/guitar and the saxophone, they were able to create an extract of the genre, a mix of many of the genres of prog with a good taste. In what concerns to me, Diagonal have created a great and interesting retro progressive rock album.

So, 'Diagonal' is the eponymous debut studio album of Diagonal and was released in 2008. The line up on the album is Alex Crispin (lead vocals, piano, organ, synthesizers and percussion), Nicholas Richards (guitar and percussion), David Wileman (electric and acoustic guitars and percussion), Ross Hossack (mellotron and synthesizers), Nichlas Whittaker (backing vocals, alto saxophone, clarinet, flute and recorder), Daniel Pomlett (bass) and Luke Foster (drums and percussion).

'Diagonal' has five tracks. The first track 'Semi Permeable Men-Brain' is a mind blowingly intense and heavy piece with killer guitar work, and some great use of wind instruments and mellotron. The vocals are in The Moody Blues' style, although the vocals aren't as strong as The Moodies. There's a spacey, psychedelic flavour on this track which recalls Pink Floyd in the Barrett's era. The second track 'Child Of The Thunder-Cloud' is a mellower track that starts off rather mellow, with piano, but I really love those aggressive passages that kick in. The atmosphere builds into the jazz prog territory with some psychedelic effects. The vocals remind me of Pink Floyd. The third track 'Deathwatch' is also a mellower piece, a Canterbury influenced piece of music, with electric piano and some mellow vocal passages. This is a very beautiful track with some inspired rhythms. It has a long instrumental section which is very melodic and beautiful. The fourth track 'Cannon Misfire' is an instrumental piece with lots of riffs. It has some great guitar work by both guitarists and an amazing bass line. It's the track that can provide a higher proportion of jamming. This is a track with great musicianship and is very intense. The fifth track 'Pact' has a jazzy feel, then an ambient passage that reminds me of something that Vangelis would do, or perhaps Brian Eno. It's a track with great melody in a fantastic ambient style. Covering several styles and with some nice bluesy and jazzy touches. It's a nice way to close this album.

Conclusion: Diagonal is a vintage 70's prog act like The Soft Machine, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Camel, as their music is dripping in nice and lush keyboard soundscapes, jazzy sax melodies, and some adventurous space rock explorations. Diagonal have certainly come up with an exciting and quite challenging listen here with their debut album space rock, prog, jazz-fusion, and Canterbury fans will most certainly want to investigate this one. The album looks amazingly 'grown-up', even if not every arrangement is completely convincing and sometimes one or the other transition bumps a bit. But, overall the tensions, Diagonal plays skillfully with quieter and louder passages and has successful melodies on board. And, with the whole retro attitude, it goes without saying that the album is about a classic LP length long. This is an album to be held up as an example of how to do it right. If you're a student of the genre, then let Diagonal be your teacher. This is prog rock you would have thought disappeared after the 70's, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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