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Pure Reason Revolution - Hammer And Anvil CD (album) cover

HAMMER AND ANVIL

Pure Reason Revolution

Crossover Prog


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Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'Hammer & Anvil' - Pure Reason Revolution (6/10)

Admittedly, a great deal of the progressive rock scene today passes me as ironically being 'retrogressive' in nature. Filled to the breaking point with ivory tower rhetoric and '70s derivative organ tones, it's a sorry state that far too many bands feel the need to express their forward-thinking attitude by sounding like bands that experienced their popular peak a good forty years ago. Luckily however, there are groups that take a modern approach to the concept of 'progressive rock;' pushing the envelope forward by giving an artistic perspective on more current styles. One such act is Britain's Pure Reason Revolution, a band that gives a decidedly intelligent approach to the shallow waters of synthpop and murky depths of alternative rock. With their third album 'Hammer & Anvil,' PRR may not have fashioned a truly excellent album, but it remains a very interesting take on the style that seems to be dominating the airwaves as of late.

'Hammer & Anvil' opens up with 'Fight Fire With Fire,' a infectious track built around the catchiness of its female-sung chorus. While Pure Reason Revolution certainly does a better job with their more introspective and mellow work ? true to the title ? 'Fight Fire With Fire' gives a fiery introduction to the music here. However, it doesn't necessarily reflect what the music here is all about. For the most part, the songs here are very ethereal, melodic and poppy tunes, sounding closely with some of Porcupine Tree's more accessible material save for the synth-heavy presence in the music. While this band are certainly able melody-makers, the tracks do ultimately feel as if they flow into each other, suggesting that there may not be enough variety here to warrant such a traditionally based style of songwriting. Towards the end of the album however (starting with the trance mix 'Blitzkrieg') is a two part track that begins sounding like it wouldn't be out of place in a Euro dance club, and ending with plenty of psychedelic effect and a near post-rock sense of building tension.

Finally, the album ends with 'Armistice,' which while risking feeling like an afterthought after such a drawn out composition, ends up being the best and most well-constructed track on the album. Sounding very much like Death Cab For Cutie or Danish pop-proggers Mew, the song represents everything Pure Reason Revolution got 'right' with this album; strong melodies , good vocal presentation and harmony, and great atmospherics to drive the music along. While I'm not completely convinced (as a result of the album's lack of consistency) by the work on 'Hammer & Anvil,' I would certainly recommend that anyone looking for a fresh sound in progressive rock music should look up the stylings of Pure Reason Revolution.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#338362)
Posted Monday, November 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Interesting album, without a doubt!

Pure Reason Revolution are a quite interesting British band, whose first full-length album received good criticism due to its great (multi-labeled) style that takes some elements of the old-prog-school, but combines them with their own and modern sound. Since I listened to "The Dark Third", I've been interested in this band, but unfortunately I was not that happy with their last year (2009) "Amor Vincit Omnia", however, now that they released a new album I was really eager to listen to it.

"Hammer and Anvil" features ten tracks and a total time of fifty-two minutes that I've really liked, despite the apathy of some prog lovers who were disappointed with their last album, and now pre-judge this one. This album opens with the powerful "Fight Fire with Fire" which was an excellent choice to begin. The drums and bass sound are especially great, and that accompanied by Chloe's vocals, will make you feel excited.

All of a sudden, "Black Mourning" appears with electronic elements, male vocals and a catchy but great sound. The piece gradually progresses though the rhythm is the same during the whole five minutes, the vocal game is excellent (they really know how to explode their best vocal qualities) and the music creates a cool atmosphere.

"Patriarch" is a softer track, the vocals sound calmer and gentler. The electronic element prevails but is less evident than in the previous song; the sound of keyboard adds a pretty nice atmosphere. The sound of this band sometimes can be compared to other alternative (no prog) bands, I do not agree completely, but in a certain way they do have some alt elements.

Seems that there is not really a continuity, I mean between each song there is a sudden change that make you say what?, because seems to be so different, however it is only in the beginning because later the songs share a similar style and you understand that there is a continuity actually. I said it because of "Last Man Round" first seconds confused me a little bit, but while the minutes run I understood what it is about. This is a cool track, with a heavier sound created by guitars and bass.

In "Valour" the electronic sound strongly reappears and gives that special sensation of a modern issue. Again, the vocal game is brilliant, and that along with the cool ups and downs on the song, make it pretty interesting. There is a post-rock like feeling in some parts, and a good ambient.

When the previous song softly fades out, again, all of a sudden the next track begins. "Over the Top" reminds me to Depeche Mode, I believe that would be evident for people who know them, because of the electronic sound and keyboards. The track is cool, but not my favorite without a doubt, actually, in moments I started to feel like "more of the same".

In "Never Divide" there is a point where despite I still enjoy it, I started to feel tired because as I said above, it is like more of the same, which does not mean is bad, not at all. The good thing comes later, because on "Blitzkrieg" an almost complete electronic, song appears. I said the good thing, because it is a healthy change to the album, though as an individual track, it is not what I would be proud about. The first three minutes are pure electronic (dance?) music, but later they suddenly stop it and a new structure appears, now with vocals and piano, creating a soft and tranquil sound, however, the last minute returns to the electronic format.

"Open Insurrection" is the longest composition here, and starts with a spacey sound with great effects, since the first seconds it captures you attention and slowly progresses until after two minutes drums appear. The name of Nine Inch Nails came to my head here, they might've been an influence, don't really know. The cool atmosphere prevails until minute four where a minor change appears along with vocals, then the music returns stronger and transmits that exciting feeling.

When it finishes, this time the change is not really evident, and "Armstice" appears. This is the last track of this album. A gentle track with a charming sound, not the best example of a progressive rock song, it actually sounds pretty poppy and catchy. Minutes later they add again those keyboard effects, but this time it is not enough. I like the album, but am not satisfied with this last song.

Listen to Hammer and Anvil, you will have a good time. I would give to it 3.5 stars if I could, but since I can't, I will give the extra half and round it to four.

Enjoy it!

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Send comments to memowakeman (BETA) | Report this review (#355758)
Posted Friday, December 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars PURE REASON REVOLUTION's third album will bring further disappointment to those looking for a continuance of their Floydish debut 'The Dark Third'. Instead, 'Hammer and Anvil' is an extension of the direction towards poppy electronica begun on their second album. But for those interested in prog-tinged electronica, as I am, this is an excellent record.

It is something of a concept album, dealing with the causes, effects and aftermath of war. Of particular merit are the vocals shared between John Courtney and Chloe Alper, conjuring an ethereal atmosphere jarringly (and deliberately) at odds with the power of their subject. I'm also particularly fond of the rhythm section, the bass making an important contribution to the way the tracks adhere to each other.

The outstanding moments are the first track, 'Fight Fire', with its blunt lyrics and shattering instrumentation, the outstanding 'Last Man, Last Round' and the 13-minute two-part track 'Blitzkrieg/Open Insurrection', the proggiest moment on the album. This is not an essential prog album, but it is an interesting amalgam of ideas four decades apart. Well worth a listen.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#409900)
Posted Tuesday, March 01, 2011 | Review Permalink

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