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Thinking Plague - Decline And Fall CD (album) cover

DECLINE AND FALL

Thinking Plague

RIO/Avant-Prog


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3 stars The last album from thinking plague is quiet a disappointment for me. It has all the great elements of their earlier albums, most notably In Extermis, but it's just not it. There are tracks where they sound as though they are trying to sound as themselves (like in Malthusian Dances), and others when they sound as taking heavy inspiration from other bands, more than they used to be (as in the middle of A Virtuous Man), and the lyrics are still not so great although there is an improvement, but nevertheless, this is still an enjoyable album if you like Thinking plague.

Malthusian Dances opens with a nice guitar riff, and changes rapidly in the middle, making this track still interesting.

I Cannot Fly marks the first highlight of the album, with a very good composition and great playing by Dave Willey.

Sleeper Cell Anthem continues the line of the former track, both in level as well as in the style with the addition of the great guitar work. In the middle of the track, a great bridge is done to one of the most beautiful melodies made in the last three albums by thinking plague.

A Virtuous Man is quiet a disappointment for me, it's a nice track, but it's just not Thinking plague, it's like they are another band.

The last two tracks are really good, and finish the album in a strong way.

Overall, this is a good album, but I have to downgrade it for the originality and for the sureness that they can do a lot more.

3.5 out of 5.

Report this review (#636989)
Posted Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I haven't seen an album hyped as much as this one has been for quite a while. I consider myself a big fan of this group and after reading the universal praise I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Well i'm happy with it and it's a solid four star record in my opinion, but out of their six studio albums this would be near the bottom. Maybe it's just me but it seems wordy and samey. I did listen to some of their previous records before I reviewed this just to make sure I wasn't losing it, but that only confirmed that I like them better. My favourite aspect of this recording is the in your face bass. A new singer is on board in Elaine Di Falco who continues that THINKING PLAGUE tradition of mono-toned female singing.

"Malthusian Dances" sounds really good with the bass and drums providing a solid rhythm while the vocals sing over top. Sax and keys join in. It becomes intricate and complex when the vocals stop. The vocals are back after 4 minutes. They will come and go. It sounds like mellotron late. "I Cannot Fly" has more huge bass lines along with vocals and more. A collage of intricate sounds come and go. Some vocal melodies after 5 minutes. "Sleeper Cell Anthem" again features chunky bass and vocals as the sax comes and goes. "A Virtuous Man" is laid back and melancholic with reserved vocals. It sounds like mellotron when it picks up some. A calm after 4 1/2 minutes. Bass clarinet before 6 minutes. Another calm before 9 minutes with mellotron. It kicks back in one more time. It's haunting to end it.

"The Gyre" features keys, sax and more as a heavy rhythm joins in. Fast paced vocals arrive after 1 1/2 minutes but they're brief. The sax is prominant late. "Climbing The Mountain" is more of the same really. Some atmosphere and mellotron before 2 minutes then the vocals return. A calm before 4 minutes with vocals. It then picks up with prominant guitar and sax. Another calm as the contrasts continue. Mellotron and chunky bass 6 minutes in as it picks up. Guitar follows.

Another excellent release by this band but one that doesn't live up to the hype, at least not in my world.

Report this review (#642153)
Posted Monday, February 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars This music is so difficult that any hint of sloppiness would put every rhythm and note in doubt, so it's great to hear such masterful performances. (And if they're not performances, but sequenced synths, they're masterfully programmed, so kudos either way.) Dave Willey (bass), Mark Harris (woodwinds), and Mike Johnson (guitars) are the foundation of the band, effortlessly navigating the very difficult rhythms laid down by Kimara Sajn on drums and keyboards. Elaine di Falco manages to reproduce both the accuracy and the unwavering pitch of ex-vocalist Deborah Perry.

However, I'm not sure whether to praise Johnson for dedication to a unified style, or chastise him for raiding his musical scraps cupboard too frequently. Anyone who has listened to previous Thinking Plague albums will recognize jagged sawtoothed sequences, interwoven and juxtaposed in a style not so much contrapuntal as merely simultaneous. if one is familiar with previous albums one is constantly reminded of previous work - turn of phrase, rhythm, instrumentation, etc. One might almost characterize the first part of "A Virtuous Man" as a cover of the middle section of "Lux Lucet" (from A History of Madness), they're so similar in sound.

The lyrics are environmentally oriented and unstintingly pessimistic. This is an album that one should listen to only if one is not already in a state of grieving for the dying world, because that's how you'll end up, having had what little hope you might have possessed mercilessly eroded away. Well, not entirely eroded. By the end of the album one is given some hope (in "Climbing the Mountain") that when humans are gone the forests will finally embrace the oceans again, but that seems a Pyrrhic victory. On the other hand, since a "Thinking Plague" is exactly what humans have become, and the album title is "Decline and Fall", surely this should be no surprise. What it does, it does well.

The bits of this album that will stick in one's brain after listening are those with either a strong bass or strong rhythm (such as the opening piece, "Malthusian Dances"). Without either of those one is left with music reminiscent of the sort of stuff students write to prove to their composition profs that they support the emancipation of dissonance.

Perhaps after twenty or so listenings I'll appreciate these pieces more, but I'm not getting that instant rush of dopamine that I got from, say, hearing "The Maelstrom" (from In Extremis) for the first time, or working out the rhythms in the first part of "Dead Silence". "Decline and Fall" is competent, consistent, but disappointingly unremarkable for Thinking Plague.

Report this review (#808070)
Posted Monday, August 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I normally pride myself on knowing quite a bit about music, but when I come across a band that has been going since 1978 and recording since 1984 yet are new to me I hang my head in shame. Although to be honest the form of music these guys provide is not likely to feature much in the mainstream press. This is experimental RIO free form that pushes the boundaries of what many would consider music at all, yet at the same time is strangely compelling. Singer Elaine Di Falco sings in a strange monotone that combines with the otherworldy music that is taking place around her to really take the listener to a dischordant future. This is music that has so much space you could drive a truck through it, yet at the same time is incredibly layered and complex. It is modern classical music being taken to an extreme: the scores for this must be incredible.

It is emotional, hard to listen to, complicated and doesn't belong in any sensible music collection. But being fair, who on earth wants to be sensible? Most people will listen to a few seconds of this and turn away in horror to the latest pop creation, but if you want your music to be challenging and with substance then this may just be for you. www.cuneiformrecords.com

Report this review (#874543)
Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars It's a pretty ballsy move calling an album "Decline and Fall", especially when it's your comeback after nearly a decade has gone by without any studio work from you has come up. This followup to A History of Madness feels, to be honest, just a little lukewarm. All the usual Thinking Plague motifs are here, but somehow they add up to less than the sum of their parts, and at points it feels like the band hit on something which could be a really nice art-pop tune which they they then feel obliged to clutter up with the sort of RIOish mayhem we expect from them.

Is this the sound of a band clinging to their old sound for so long they begin to repeat themselves, or flirting with the idea of changing direction but ultimately chickening out? We can't know for sure, but what I do know is that if you have In Extremis or In This Life you don't have any need of this.

Report this review (#1611194)
Posted Wednesday, September 14, 2016 | Review Permalink

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