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5Bridges - The Thomas Tracks CD (album) cover

THE THOMAS TRACKS

5Bridges

 

Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 120 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Once in a blue moon, there are albums that take their very charming time in blooming, initially a tightly shy bud that will blossom with a modicum of TLC. I was inspired to purchase this mysterious unveiling by our "synthphony" who lauded its values and since I am a sucker for prog from the Netherlands, I finally landed this one. My first unfocused audition scored a mere 3 stars, my next one 3.5, then I shoved it in my car CD player and it has progressively (hmm, that word again!) evolved into a 4.5 flaming asteroid. Mind you an album entitled "The Thomas Tracks" when your name is Thomas is kind cool, but I didn't let that deter from any positive considerations. This Dutch symphonic crew builds up quite a musical storm with hints from all the usual suspects (Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant etc?) while retaining some exceedingly original timbres and contemporary accoutrements. The music is based on a published novel written by drummer Rob van der Linden. The vocals by Piet Roelofsen took a little time to enchant , a bit like a less twangy David Cousins but the rest of the performers are stellarly competent if not outright excellent. The bass manned by Martin Thoolen has that trebly wobble that fuels the majestic Rickenbacker and the drums are superbly modernized with various beats and percussive adornments that are definitely new school. Guitarist Enzo Gallo has an oblique style that will remind some of Steve Howe (yeah, the steel guitar?) but has its own distinctiveness. The keys are handled by Luke D'Araceno who weaves all manners of passionate pianos, orgasmic organs, sublime synthesizer that will place him squarely in the Wakeman/Bodin pantheon of ivory wizards. "Didymus" sets up the first girders ("brick by brick your temple rises") , deliberately building the symphonic structures as the "boom tchak-tchak" drums rifle in the 21st century beats , sweeping mellotron entering the fray and power guitar riffs as the synths loop in judicious folly. In "Babylonian Curse Revisited" Gallo duels with D'Araceno in diminutive bursts of loud lucidity, entirely Genesisian in feel and spirit, soaring into an intricate concoction of tempo shifts and moods, where vocalist Roelofsen actually acquits himself with exceptional brio. The instrumental sections are mind blowing, the buzzing Mini-Moog ceremoniously jostling with the guitar slashes, swept by torrential mellotron cascades. The rhythm duo keeps it tight, inventive and propulsive, like they are supposed to but they do it with style. "On Calpe's Rock" we plunge deep into a SEBTP mood, with key and fret boards ablaze, all shuffling along merrily (some wonderful volume pedal work on the guitar and elegantly romantic piano), Piet struggles a bit in hitting the higher notes but the passion is definitely there. The bass dances into the bustling beats and shovels the path into the symphonic heavens (a huge Howe-like axe brush clears the way) and the soft piano waves goodbye in respectful delicacy. The 10 minute "The Spell of Eternity" is the strongest track here, a mix of Hawkwind/Ultravox in the pounding drumming with manic synth loops introducing a massive barrage of instrumental genius from each and all, the Rickenbacker propelling the proceedings like some immense sonic lizard, Piet fox-trotting his Gabriel/Fish-isms with impish glee, while Gallo does a 60s Perry Mason theme on his crunchy guitar (amazing!) while screeching out a series of solos that defy description. The ultra-modern drum patters recall a train on twisted tracks keeping one's breath in constant expectation; as the keys run rampant it becomes apparent that this is grandiose sympho- prog that deserves your ear and your heart, I certainly applauded forcefully when I actually "got it". After a short bass and acoustic guitar interlude that has Rutherford/Ant Phillips all over it, "Tricks & Treason" pursues the themed story with a playful organ, some forceful rhythms and a melody that stick in the mind with jubilating ease. The mood here is quite upbeat and positive with more dramatic vocal gymnastics that serve the structures well. A serene mellotron/acoustic guitar bridge is simply marvelous as the water effects flow under the bridges, a wispy organ meanders with purpose and authority. There are some polyrhythmic exercises that recall the Gentle Giant and astoundingly deflect from any "neo" connotations. The drop-dead gorgeous instrumental "Lovernius'Song" elicits dreamy memories of past prog glories, supple, classical Anthony Phillips-isms bathing in dense electronic orchestrations (another winning piece) that will provoke deep emotions. The epic "Batavian Revolt" is a romping upbeat affair with rather sunny melodies and generally enthusiastic playfulness, with some contrasts in mood and energy. A restrained guitar solo searches for the distant boundaries of prog discourse, where the Steve Howe influences really come through. Next up, "Amazons & Haven" rekindles the Genesis sound in a perhaps dreamier setting, wispy synth washes swarm in harmony with a light tempo and content to deliver a grandiose setting (the orchestrations are magnificent) with "seagull squawking guitar fills to boot. This is where the band seeks out to stretch their instrumental limbs with fervor and even abandon, drumming heightening in intensity, bass rumbling in frenzy, while the keys and axes run rampant. The final track "Signs on the Wall' really sounds like a finale, full of rebounding themes, excited choruses and various mood contrasts that take their time in developing. This is not an easy album to digest, requiring multiple auditions before it starts weaving some magic. When the structure is finally erect, your ears will flutter with pleasure. For those who enjoy a complete experience, the full libretto is available on line within the confines of the band's website. 5 bridges
tszirmay | 5/5 |

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