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The Gift - Antenna CD (album) cover


The Gift


Symphonic Prog

3.08 | 20 ratings

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3 stars "The Gift", founded in 2003 in the UK, was originally intended to be a "one-off" project with their first album. Founders Mike Morton and Leroy James started this Symphonic Prog band with the idea of creating a band to make a concept album. Soon, other members were brought in and in 2006, the concept album was released. Over 8 years, Mike had written some new songs and in 2014, a 2nd album was finally released with a follow up in 2016. Their 4th full length album is called "Antenna" and was released in June of 2019.

"Antenna" is comprised of 10 tracks with a total run time of over an hour. The band line-up consists of both founders Mike Morton on lead vocals and Leroy James on guitars and backing vocals. The remainder of the current core band consists of Dave Lloyd on guitars and backing vocals, Gabriele Baldocci on keys, Stefan Dickers on bass and Neil Hayman on drums and percussion. The album is available on both CD and digitally.

"We Are Connected" starts with a rock riff similar to Foreigner's "Hot Blooded". Keys and vocals soon come in giving the mostly straightforward song a sound of its own. Vocals and instruments are all strong, not necessarily heavy, but a moderate rock sound. After a bridge that is a bit softer, there is a guitar break before returning to the last chorus. "Changeling" makes a move towards a more prog sound with vocals supported by soft keys and guitar, hand claps and a more complex feel and lyrics. The track nears the 10 minute mark this time, and has a softer Genesis type feel (Phil Collins era around the "Abacab" era). Before 3 minutes, the track strengthens then moves into a much heavier sound with a pounding riff and a great synth solo. After this, things get atmospheric for a minute before returning to the prior heaviness, with more riffage and synth soloing and progressive runs. It then turns to a soft piano solo backed by synths and vocals return. A new sound, vocal melody and catchy rhythm then comes in taking us into a different feel altogether. Great track, much better than the first track, and hopefully we are going to continue with better tracks like this one.

"Back to Eden", however, opts for a more commercial sound, but the melody is still good and enticing with strummed guitars, a bright, upbeat rhythm and overall sound. Not really progressive, but nice anyway, and cow bell after the softer, piano-led bridge section, everything to brighten your mood. "Long Time Dead" starts with guitar and harmonica playing the same riff. The rhythm starts and the music settles into a "dusty western" style with a blues-oriented sound (ala Bon Jovi, but a bit better). There is a nice guitar solo in the middle complete with the rattle sound produced like you expected, there is a short foray into jazz with the piano and the vocals return. A bit corny, but not too bad, just predictable, with the main western feeling running through all 7 minutes.

"Snowfall" starts as a piano-led ballad with pensive vocals that become more emotional in the chorus. This has some occasional synth effects added in, but remains slow and soft with no rhythm section. "Far Stranger" also begins with solo piano, but with more tension. Vocals bring in guitar, bass and eventually hesitant drums. The melody is a bit more complex, but still mostly safe. As it approaches the chorus, things become more intensified. The instrumental break becomes a little more progressive with some nice guitar/synth passages. Another level is reached and the vocals start with more passion now and a more complex sound. It all culminates in returning to a slower rhythm and more vocals ending the track. "Hand in Hand" is a nice, solo acoustic guitar interlude lasting almost 3 minutes.

"Wild Roses" starts with a tropical percussive sound and "orchestra hits" and then guitars start in creating a heavier feel. For a symphonic band, there has been very little symphonic feel, and this is the first track where you might notice more of a lean in that direction, but its rather minimal. The melody has a bit of complexity to it, but remains pretty safe, even with the slightly darker guitar riffs. However, the lyrics don't reflect a darker theme as it has a more romantic theme that plays against an attempt to have an Americana feel. The entire track comes across as a mostly conventional rock sound than anything however. It's a bit weak and uninteresting, not really generating the excitement that it attempts to create. "When You Are Old" goes for a slow and atmospheric sound with pensive vocals with echoing effects whispering in the background. The song never really develops into anything, but the vocals seem to meander a bit and no real feeling seems to come out of this track.

The album ends with the appropriately named "Closer" which is another track that nears the 10 minute mark. A moderate rhythm is established as vocals and chiming guitars come in. The tapping rhythm builds a bit of tension, but when everything else comes in, it's not really the payoff you expect. A bit after the 2 minute mark, the music makes a sudden left turn and a more progressive sound starts with heavy guitars and synths providing alternating backing and solos. After this, at 4 minutes, things calm to a strummed guitar and more vocals, there is a pause, and then drums join in. After the verse, a nice laid-back guitar solo comes in, backed by synths, followed by a lovely piano solo while everything remains at the constant tempo.

This album has a few great high points as in the tracks "Changeling" and "Far Stranger", but it has just as many weak moments as in "Wild Roses" and "When You Are Old". The other long track "Closer" is simply just OK as are many of the other tracks like "Back to Eden" and "Long Time Dead" and pretty much all of the other tracks that are enjoyable, but pretty average and predictable. In the end, there is a lot of weight placed on the final track, whether it can save the album, or just keep it average. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite deliver on it's expectations, and pushes the overall score down to 3 stars. The two excellent songs on this album just can't pull the weight of the average or lower than average tracks. By the way, this album is not really what I would consider symphonic, but seems to be more of a prog related (or Crossover prog at best) affair.

TCat | 3/5 |


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