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Touchstone - The City Sleeps CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.87 | 86 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars A quality album with symphonic prog metal and no filler.

Touchstone's "The City Sleeps" is a very enjoyable album that features an outstanding hybrid of traditional metal and symphonic prog. The musicianship and vocals are excellent throughout which ranges from beautiful ballads such as the exquisite 'Sleeping Giants', with a mesmirising duet between Rob Cottingham and Kim Serviour, to the heavy riffing onslaught of 'Good Boy Psycho'. There are some awesome riffing guitars on this album such as the chugging rhythm of 'These Walls' and it is not without some wonderful lead soloing, notably on the fantastic opener 'Corridors' and the killer lead break on the ending of 'Good Boy Psycho'.

'Horizons' is very accessible traditional rock, Kim's golden tones are balanced well with Rob's singing. They trade off taking turns on verses and duet harmonies. It is a pleasant listening experience and the music builds into heavier guitar in the break. The album is always providing metal and symphonic in equal doses without one overpowering the other. There is enough on this to appease metal and prog fans alike and that is a feat in itself. It reminds me of the kind of music from other female led acts such as Nightwish, After Forever, Epica, and Panic Room although Touchstone really have a tendency to be more ambient and focussing on beautiful melodies than indulging in a Gothic opera style. In this case the band are more like Mostly Autumn, Magenta and even Ayreon, the way the female and male leads trade off, notably in the wonderful 'Half Moon Meadow'. The lead guitar shredding is a real drawcard on this track with an amazing performance from Adam Hodgson. The keyboard solo on this from Cottingham reminded me of the way Dream Theater trade off on solos.

The album features two complex epics that are full on progressive, 'When Shadows Fall' and 'The City Sleeps', both prime examples of Touchstone at their best. 'The City Sleeps' is perhaps the best track with an odd time signature and Kim's vocals are gorgeous, joined by Rob's clear vocals. This track has a lot of variation and seems to build from a basic structure into a time sig change and it has a heavier riff than many other tracks. In the mid section the keyboards are spacey and Kim narrates some seductive space whispers, better than Gilli Smyth. The song then has a lovely ballad segment, Rob sounds terrific here, and the lead guitar motif is catchy. Kim really lets loose on some powerful vocals to follow, and the song finally ends with a blazing lead solo. Incredible song by any standard, and so delightfully similar to the work of Ayreon's duets.

This album certainly grows on the listener and certain tracks jump out such as 'Corridors' due to the oriental Arabian sounding melodies, guitar riffs, and wonderful soaring vocals. The two epics stand out of course but I am also taken with the ballads 'Sleeping Giants' and 'Half Moon Meadow'. There are no bad songs at all so this is definitely worth at least 4 stars. It is verging on masterpiece status though it didn't quite provide the complete package. In any case this is an essential listen and one of the best albums for 2011; a stellar year for new prog.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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