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Big Big Train - The Underfall Yard CD (album) cover

THE UNDERFALL YARD

Big Big Train

 

Crossover Prog

4.18 | 511 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

m2thek
Prog Reviewer
5 stars The Underfall Yard is a 2009 release by the English band Big Big Train. This is the band's 5th studio album, and first with their new lead singer. This is my first experience with Big Big Train, so I was going in not knowing what to expect, but was extremely pleased with my purchase. Listeners who have any interest in symphonic prog and modern prog at all should feel the same.

The music of The Underfall Yard is very pleasing, and consistently good throughout. Most of the songs are driven by acoustic guitar lines, and have a fair amount of singing. Other instruments include electric guitar, flute, and a few different keyboards. There are also a number of classical instruments, such as cello and an assortments of horns. However, these are played by studio musicians, and don't make as many appearances as the core instruments. The flute along with the acoustic guitar give the music an almost pastoral feeling, which really sets the mood. Although the standard feel of the album is softer, they do have their loud moments, characterized by electric guitar riffs, and are usually accompanied by well placed strings. These moments help in giving each song a nice up and down dynamic, and usually aid in leading to their climaxes. The lyrical themes of the album are pretty interesting, and deal with a band member's deceased father, English folk stories, and the decline of Western thought.

The album itself is very consistent, with every song being enjoyable and having something to offer. Each song is also pretty dynamic, and has a clear, satisfying climax. The lyrics carry the songs well, and are sung with lots of emotion that make them very enjoyable. There are a lot of nice guitar solos, and even the occasional flute and keyboard solo, which are used sparingly, but effectively. The solos in the last song are closer to the shredding you might find on a metal album, rather than the slower paced, melodic efforts in the previous 5 songs, but they offer a nice contrast, and are some of the most exciting moments on the album. Some passages involving the brass are just so emotional and beautiful that I just go into shock every time they pass. There are also some great, subtle, compositional touches, such as the vocal harmony in the first song that is brought back in the closer, or some whistling at the end of the second song that introduces the vocal melody of the next. Moments like these are great touches, and really make the album come together as a whole, rather than being just a collection of good songs. At just around an hour, the album is a great length, that really has no down moment.

The parts that I like about the album also brings me to my only complaint about it, namely, its consistency. Each song feels very safe within the context of the album. After listening to one song, you could pick a random one and guess very major characteristics about it, and you'd probably be right. That's not to say that every album has to have a weirdo song from the rest, it's just that the band seems to lack a sense of adventure here, and likes to stick to what it's good at. Again, this is a minor point, and really speaks to how good it is if the only negative point I can make is basically "none of these songs manage to be worse than any other song."

Lack of exploration aside, this album truly is excellent. There is just no bad moment to be found here, and the highs are very high and worth waiting for. This is surely one of 2009's top albums, and even at the end of 2010, it's still pulling at me and distracting me from this year's releases. The Underfall Yard is a must listen to, and a masterpiece of modern progressive rock.

m2thek | 5/5 |

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