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Final Conflict - Return of the Artisan CD (album) cover

RETURN OF THE ARTISAN

Final Conflict

 

Neo-Prog

3.90 | 88 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Warthur
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Final Conflict were formed in 1985, and since then have strived to make much of an impact if any within the neo-prog field. Their albums haven't received much in the way of attention aside from a few rather mixed reviews here and there, and consequently I haven't found myself compelled to track them down at all until I started hearing the buzz on ProgArchives about this latest one of theirs, Return of the Artisan.

On this album, the band come from out of nowhere to spring to the forefront of their chosen style. It's theatrical neo-prog of a sort fans will have heard plenty of before, but the delivery is exceptional; Andy Lawton and Brian Donkin combine to deliver dramatic vocals and even more expressive guitar performances, with influences ranging from classic Pink Floyd to the latest trends in the heavier side of neo-prog (including some almost metal-like riffing on the schizophrenic The Mechanic). Keyboardist Steve Lipiec, meanwhile, proves adept at pulling off the same trick as Galahad's Dean Baker when it comes to incorporating modern electronic sounds into the prog keyboardist's repertoire as well as pulling out some passages reminiscent of Mark Kelly circa Script for a Jester's Tear.

In fact, when it comes to composition the band show a real mastery of a wide range of prog modes, from material reminiscent of the golden age of the 1970s to much more modern fare, and in particular they show a genius for mingling the styles in interesting ways in order to find fascinating combinations which really push the genre forward. They also show a fair degree of depth when it comes to their lyrical themes; I can sort of see the album as a thematic concept affair ruminating on the state of artistry in the world today and contrasting the approach of the Mechanic - who likes to grind out things according to a neat pattern for the sake of mass market appeal - and the Artisan, who would prefer to win the passionate devotion of a few instead of the mild approval of the many.

It's an apt summation of the place where music itself finds itself these days, with the Internet era suddenly making craftsmanship, a personal connection with the audience, and establishing yourself in a particular well-loved musical niche or subculture as opposed to simply pitching your stuff to the mass market has become more viable than ever thanks to the Internet providing vibrant sources of support and promotion for niche genres - like prog, for instance.

Rather appropriate, then, that such a concept should be used for a band which seems to be finally coming into its own. To my ears, Final Conflict may be pulling a "Galahad" with this album - Galahad being another neo-prog group who formed in the 1980s and were much influenced by the Marquee crowd, but failed to put out any albums which received more than lukewarm reviews on average until after decades of solid work they finally hit their groove. It remains to be seen whether this album wins Final Conflict a wider audience within the prog world, but it truly deserves to; likewise, if their next album is even half as good as this, Final Conflict will have carved out a place for themselves in the front rank of current neo-prog acts.

Warthur | 5/5 |

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