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Citizen Cain - Skies Darken CD (album) cover


Citizen Cain

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars Citizen Cain are one of the most underated neo-prog groups. They are often dismissed as "another early Genesis aping band". This is totally unfair. Apart from Cyrus's singing voice which is highly similar to early Peter Gabriel singing style (and how is that a bad thing?) their music, lyrics and general atmosphere are completely different than early Genesis. Citizen Cain's music is much darker, thick layered, dense and complicated. It is hard to sink your teeth in their music as it takes a while to get used to it but once this happens the reward is so much more fulfilling than with the current neo- prog bands. This is not for the faint-hearted but for music lovers who take their time in exploring the music with patience, and each time you listen to a song you hear new things. However the music is dark and unconforting so if you like your prog light-hearted and easy this is not for you
Report this review (#746162)
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's been a while since we heard from these guys but with Skies Darken it was well worth the wait! Once again we are treated to Cyrus' brand of quirky storytelling, complete with nursery rhyme references and occasional maniacal outbursts, as in the very strong track "The Hunting Of Johnny Eue" with it's "FEE FI FO FUM" vocals or the evil snickering that appears at the end of the otherwise pretty track "Spiders In Undergrowth".

The album's centrepiece track is surely the lengthy "Coming Down / The Fountains Of Sand / Delivered Up For Tea / Death And Rebirth". This is one of those 'journey' songs where the listener is treated to different moods, tempos and approaches, all the while featuring memorable melodies that will please any prog lover - and this is the important ingredient so often missing from other releases of this genre. Although the previously mentioned "Johnny Eue" is a terrific and strong track, this one is certainly another that will give core CC fans what they really desire (they won't be let down by *any* of the tracks, actually).

Terrific writing and playing, a good sense of storytelling, instantly likeable melodies and delicious lyrics add up to a nice long album that you can really sink your teeth into - but it does not seem as long as it is. And that's a very, very good sign. It's refreshing to have an album of this epic scope where there are no 'skipper' tracks.

Only time will tell if Skies Darken will unseat Somewhere But Yesterday as the best Citizen Cain album, but at this early stage, to my ears, this is the best thing they've ever done. I've spun the disc about a dozen times in a very short space because it is just so good, and that's really saying something considering I constantly have a huge stack of cds to go through... the ones that simply aren't as good get shelved rather quickly. This is not one of those. This album is a winner. Well done, lads. Recommended!

Report this review (#749639)
Posted Sunday, May 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars When Citizen Cain's Skies Darken begins with "The Charnal House," I get the impression they have gone Metal as the aggressive attack of guitars recalls more Dream Theater or Tool than their previous Genesis inclinations. Then Cyrus comes in with his beautiful Gabriel-esque vocals and Stewart Bell with his lilting piano and keyboard work and all is right with the world. There is much of this new-found aggression on Skies Darken that at times even bring to mind Red-era King Crimson. The lyrics reveal a darker side to fairy-tales and fables, and that inspiration moves the music to this harder edge. Melodic Progressive Metal is an interesting combo in the hands of Citizen Cain (or is that Xitizen Xain?). Newest member guitarist Phil Allen fits in really well and takes songs like "The Charnel House" and "Lost In Lonely Ghosts" to another level. He has seamlessly adapted himself to the hallmark of the Citizen Cain sound, the rolling in unison instrumental sections with sudden stops and starts and slightly different modal shifts that sets Citizen Cain apart from their contemporaries. Also, Skies Darken often moves and feels like a harder edged early Genesis, and the whole fairy tales gone bad and mythological aspect of the stories they are telling just sets this release over the top for me. Recommended for sure. 5 Stars for me!
Report this review (#749676)
Posted Sunday, May 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars It's been ten years since CITIZEN CAIN last released a studio album and it was one that I didn't think much of. I probably wouldn't have bothered with this one except that people were saying they had made their sound darker and heavier. They had my attention. A lot of Neo-Prog bands have changed to a heavier style and for the most part it's been an improvement. One of my complaints of latter day CAIN albums have been the long length of them plus the relentless vocals. I just get so tired of Cyrus' vocals being constantly in my face even though I do like them. Just give me some moderation(haha). Well they have scaled them back some but this is still a long album at over 73 minutes.

It has this theme running through it about how man has failed to learn from past mistakes and the skies are getting darker because of it. Soon it will catch up with humanity and the storm will break. There seems to be a lot of nursery rhyme references on this record as well.

"The Charnal House" is surprisingly heavy. Love the chunky bass, and vocals arrive a minute in. It's heavy again before 2 1/2 minutes as contrasts continue. It blends into "The Long Sleep" where we get some huge bass lines. A calm with piano before 3 minutes and reserved vocals join in. It kicks back in quickly. Again contrasts continue. Spoken words late. "Darkest Sleep / Manifestations" has this marching styled rhythm as the vocals join in. It's building. A calm before 2 minutes then it kicks back in a minute later. I like these powerful sections. "Spiders In Undergrowth" features lots of piano.

"The Hunting Of Johnny Eue / Trapped By Candlelight" has a good heavy sound 2 minutes in then the vocals arrive and it's not as heavy. These contrasts continue. An atmospheric calm 9 minutes in. Great sound of drums and synths when it kicks back in. "Coming Down / The Fountains Of Sand / Delivered Up For Tea / Death And Rebirth" has a powerful intro with chunky bass. A calm with reserved vocals before 1 1/2 minutes and the piano joins in. It continues to be laid back until before 6 minutes when we get a bombastic instrumental section that ends before 8 minutes. Impressive. Spoken words late. "Do We Walk In The World ?" opens with piano as the vocals join in. Bass and drums too. Lots of synths before 4 minutes. It's heavy late as it blends into "Lost In Lonely Ghosts". Vocals follow then we get a silent calm 3 minutes in then the reserved vocals return before it kicks back in.

A good album but i'll stick with their first two studio albums thankyou. 3 stars.

Report this review (#780364)
Posted Saturday, June 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars I first came across Citizen Cain in 1993 when their debut CD was released by Dutch label SI Music, but in truth they had already been active for some time before that, appearing on the famous compilation 'Fire In Harmony' back in 1985. I was immediately taken by the Gabriel- esque vocals of Cyrus, and the way that the band managed to evoke the spirit and feeling of early 70's Genesis but had brought them into the 90's. I was hooked. Over the years there were some line-up changes, and gradually the output slowed with the last release being 'Playing Dead' in 2002. Like many I never really thought that there would be another album, although I kept in touch with keyboard player Stewart Bell and often asked the question. So, it was both delight and trepidation last year when I heard that the band were recording again. I mean, after all this time was it going to be any good?

When the disc arrived I opened the booklet to see who was involved, and could see just three names ? Cyrus, Stewart and Phil Allen. Annoyingly for me there are no details about who played what, and who (if any) were the additional musicians involved. The Citizen Cain website is still under construction, and the Festival Music site just lists releases so neither are helpful in this regard. I did find a few details on one site where it states that Stewart provided drums as well as keys, Cyrus provided bass (as he did in the early days of the band) and vocals and Phil provided guitars. There is a very simple reason as to why this bothers me, as we need to give credit where credit is due as this is an absolutely stunning piece of work. To put it bluntly, this is one of the finest prog albums you are ever likely to hear.

Put it in the player and immediately the listener is taken aback by the complexity and interplay of the introduction to "The Charnal House". The maelstrom of notes and complicated inter-rhythms gives way to delicate piano and vocals, and one of the most Genesis-like passages of the whole album. Already the listener is deep inside the world of Citizen Cain, and with less than three minutes on the clock there has been musically a lot to digest. The interplay between the musicians, and particularly the way that the melodies and counterpoints are chased and are at times heavily structured and dense, contrast greatly with the simplicity of other phases of the music. And all of this within one song! Stewart's keyboards are a revelation, bringing together a multitude of sounds and styles, often layered, and he would need to be an octopus to be able to replicate this in a live environment.

By the time I got to the end of this album I felt that I had been taken on an incredible musical journey, one with a richness and passion to match anything I have heard in recent years. The only sane thing to do after listening to this is put it back on. The more I have played it the more I have fallen into the spell. So it took 10 years for this one, when's the next? 5/5 in anyone's language.

Report this review (#786364)
Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Skies Darken finds Citizen Cain returning after a decade of silence following the release of Playing Dead. Impressively, the lineup of Playing Dead has stuck around - a rarity for a band whose history has been plagued with lineup instability. Band leader Cyrus is still on lead vocals and bass, duties he's undertaken since the band's earliest days in the 1980s. Keyboards and, secondarily, drums are handled by Stewart Bell - the one consistent member of the "Mark 2" lineup of Citizen Cain since the Serpents In Camouflage debut album. Phill Allen returns on guitar, having joined on Playing Dead.

Why Citizen Cain should go quiet for a decade, re-emerge to release this album, and then (at least as far as commercially released music goes) disappear once again, I don't know; these long gaps are uncharacteristic for a band which had previously been able to put out an album every 2-4 years from 1993 to 2002. On the other hand, the time off seems to have done them good, since Skies Darken is easily their most original and distinctive-sounding release.

Accusations of Genesis mimicry have often dogged Citizen Cain, and with Cyrus' singing voice being as closely modelled on Peter Gabriel's as it is it seems unlikely they'll ever put out an album where that won't be a factor. That said, his performance here is different from his usual style - less bombastically theatrical, much more melancholic and philosophical, Cyrus's vocals here are less prone to intrusively upstaging the musical performances than on any previous Citizen Cain album. As far as the music goes, there's a dark and funereal cast to things here, an injection of grim latter-day neo-prog reminiscent of the likes of Arena's Contagion or late IQ which takes things far from the pastoral romanticism of Genesis.

As of the time of writing, it's been eight years since Skies Darken was released; hopefully we will not have to wait that much longer for another Citizen Cain album, for at this late stage of their careers they seem to have flowered and revealed a powerful, distinctive sound of their own that puts their earlier material in the shade.

Report this review (#2339228)
Posted Friday, February 28, 2020 | Review Permalink

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