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The Watch - Vacuum CD (album) cover

VACUUM

The Watch

 

Neo-Prog

3.90 | 161 ratings

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Hibou
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I've granted my precious 5 stars to nine albums so far and was starting to doubt of ever finding that elusive number 10. Well, there must be a prog god somewhere for I've found it right here.

Although I didn't have access to either the album booklet, the credits nor the lyrics, I've had the privilege of hearing the music of "Vacuum" over the last week or so and I can assure you of one thing: it is a work of stellar magnitude. It is altogether exhilirating, disturbing, entrancing, profoundly moving and symphonic to the core.

First, let's get some things straight: vocalist Simone Rossetti (who is responsible for most of the work such as concept, music, lyrics, arrangements) does sound like young Peter Gabriel incarnate; Sergio Taglioni's keyboard solos do feel like they came straight out of Tony Bank's head; and some of Ettore Salati's lead guitar passages do sound like Steve Hackett is plucking away. But don't go thinking that The WATCH are yet another god-forsaken "G" clone. Rossetti is an extremely talented composer who uses the early GENESIS atmosphere as a filter to express his own art. The musical themes and phrases on this album are so rich and varied, only in jazz (and from a handful of prog acts) have I heard such an array of strange musical phrases so harmoniously brought together.

The album opens with the minimalistic "Hills", featuring Rossetti's gentle voice floating over piano notes and a little synth in the background - a fitting sleeper for the 'bomb' that immediately follows.

"Damage Mode" alternately reminds me of the title track from "The Lamb", "One for the Vine" and "The Cinema Show", yet it is so uniquely WATCH: a perfect blend of gorgeous melodic prog and muscle-tight rock that can't be compared to anything. The quiet acoustic guitar passages (reminiscent of Anthony Phillips') combined with Rossetti's child-like voice are so poignant they'll make your heart ache. That is, until the tune explodes with biting guitars riffs, crunching bass and drums, buckets of soaring keyboards and vocals so gripping they'll tear you apart. The last time I remember having such a rush was when I first heard "The Cinema Show" ("take a little trip back with Father Tiresias" indeed). To top it all, the track contains a killer banksian solo by keyboardist Taglioni that will have every GENESIS fan drooling.

"Wonderland" is an intimate tune that weaves its course in a sweet, melancholy way through an exquisite guitar solo by Ettore Salati. In the manner of "Mad Man Moon", it cooks slowly then becomes larger than life. One of the most exquisite and powerful tracks of the album.

The early cacophony/buffonery of "Shining Bald Heads" winks at you with airs of a certain "Harold the Barrel". This is perhaps the least romantic (read 'Italian') track of the lot but not to worry: Rossetti's lyricism always seems to get the better of him and before long, you'll be treated to some exquisite symphonic flights once more.

"Out of the Land" opens on a quiet, reflective theme resembling "The Lamia", with delicate acoustic guitar notes that mimick the familiar piano from the album "The Lamb". After a brief hyatus, the bass, organ and percussion roll in and... wham! The doors fly wide open to reveal yet another tapestry of majestic, spine-tingling keyboard passages.

With heavy bass and organ throbs la Keith Emerson, "Goddess" begins as a head banger but soon takes flight with rolling drums, a wonderful chorus and an incredible array of new colourful themes and time signatures. With cahotic passages not unlike the intro to "Watcher of the Skies", it alternately thrusts the listener into a rhythmic frenzy then wraps him up with superb, mellow symphonic passages - a pattern I seem to regognize more and more as I keep listening to the album. Gosh, this track is so jam-packed with musical themes, I've known entire albums that boasted less than you'll find on this single track.

"Deeper Still" is yet another exquisite piece of sweet melancholy where Rossetti's haunting, layered vocals gently hover over a delicate acoustic theme. (Are you taking notes, Mr. Rutherford?)

The closing title track, "Vacuum, is the darkest and most poignant of the lot. It is so powerful it's almost frightening. The violence of certain passages (including Rossetti's vocals), the throbbing bass, the foreboding drums, the menacing organ and the eerie synths alongwith the portentous fury of the theme is so deeply troubling it caught me unawares - I honestly didn't expect such disturbing moments from Rossetti's pen. Let's just say that music is sometimes the best medium for expressing certain kinds of emotions and that Rossetti took full advantage of it. His vocal performance is simply staggering on this one. This is a very, very powerful stuff that hits you smack in the gut - you'll excuse my vocabulary but I can't think of a gentler way of describing what this music does to me. The track also showcases the finest moments from everyone involved and is proof that Rossetti is indeed in the hands of a highly capable crew.

Whether you are familiar with THE WATCH's material or not, you can't help but be impressed by the outstanding penmanship, the charismatic delivery and the fine musicianship displayed on "Vacuum". There is not one wasted note, not one dead moment on the entire album. "Vacuum": a true jewel of progressive sound and lyricism, an album you'll be rediscovering every time you hear it.

GENESIS is dead: long live THE WATCH !!!

P.S. I realize it is not customary to grant 5 stars to so-called 'derivative' material. However, "Vacuum" goes way beyond this appellation and consequently, I honesty cannot grant it any less than a perfect note.

Hibou | 5/5 |

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