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Corvus Stone - Corvus Stone CD (album) cover


Corvus Stone


Crossover Prog

3.84 | 179 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The debut effort by newcomers Corvus Stone is an easy album to enjoy, but more of a challenge to describe: always a welcome dilemma in the world of Prog. Suffice to say this isn't an album that will yield all its treasures on first (or even third) exposure, presenting almost two dozen (mostly instrumental) tracks, in total pushing the limits of a single CD right to the digital brim, with 79-minutes and 59-seconds of original songwriting.

That's a lot of music to digest in a single sitting. And while it's all very accessible, there isn't a convenient point of reference for newcomers to latch onto. A lot of new music sheltered under the Progressive Rock umbrella tends to rely on familiar touchstones for easier access, but don't expect too many retro-Prog shortcuts from this group (a keyboard-bass- guitar trio at the moment, but expanding as I write).

So what's it sound like, you ask? Well, consider the tags on the MR Records website, where you can hear the album in its entirety. Progressive Rock; Classic Rock; Avant Garde; Camel; Floyd; Crimson; and European Porn Music (!!) are all mentioned, but every influence is already deeply ingrained in the music instead of cosmetically applied on top. The artwork suggests a Heavy Metal experience, which is hardly the case. And guitarist Colin Tench describes the music (with disarming self-deprecation) as "funky '70s to heavy weird to Floyd to stupid and back again", which only covers about half the stylistic cues.

The 'Floyd' aspect of the album recalls later, post "Dark Side" arena-rock Pink Floyd. The 'stupid' must be the tongue-in-cheek interlude "JussiPussi" (the first syllable pronounced with a long vowel sound)...or is that the Euro-Porn influence? The song "Moustaches in Massachusetts" has a distinct Carlos Santana flavor, with weird Zappa-like digressions; "Scary Movie" quotes the Fleetwood Mac song "Oh Well" (or maybe the more dynamic Joe Jackson remake, from his "Laughter and Lust" album). And it must have been an involuntary reflex that prompted the "Smoke on the Water" nod, in the oddly- titled "Moron Season".

Clearly this is a band that subscribes to the Zappa maxim "make an honest attempt not to take anything seriously", always a welcome policy from professional musicians of this high caliber. Just as clearly, this is an ensemble aiming at a lot of simultaneous targets, from assertive Neo-Prog riffing to delicate acoustic moodiness, often with an Iberian slant, and fortunately with more hits than misses. There's a strong cinematic flair to the music (one of the longer and stronger tracks is even named "Cinema", immediately following "Scary Movie"), reinforced by an opening number appropriately titled "The Curtain Rises", and a later "Intermission".

Keep in mind it's very much a calculated studio endeavor, almost too smoothly produced at times, not unlike an impeccable demo package. A little ersatz live spontaneity would have been welcome, as when real drums are finally highlighted in "The Rusty Wolff Attack" (name-checking new percussionist Robert Wolff). The pacing isn't always consistent either: pieces like "Iron Pillow" and "After Solstice" never quite locate the proper center of gravity, and the old-school lead synthesizers (in "October Sad Song", and elsewhere) don't do the music any favors, especially next to Pasi Koivu's already effective (and more organic) piano playing.

But the full album never once loses its melodic footing, and the enthusiasm of the performances all but leaps out of the speakers. This is an album fairly bursting with ideas even when it lacks a larger thematic unity, and the effect on a sympathetic listener can be just as exhilarating as it must have been for the players themselves (I'm sure the band would still be in the studio if they hadn't already reached their 80-minute event horizon).

Hopefully that momentum will continue to carry them forward. An unknown band playing unfashionable music in such an unforgiving industry is already facing a steep uphill grade, even more so than the proto-prog iconoclasts of an earlier generation. So I give Corvus Stone a little extra credit for their embryonic efforts, rounding up my otherwise conservative rating in a gesture toward grass roots solidarity. An auspicious beginning, without a doubt.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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