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4 stars Signals, the 2013 debut album from Scottish melodic progressives Preacher, was a noteworthy first venture that got a deserved remastered re-release via IME Records in 2015.

Three years on from those sonic Signals first being detected Preacher have broadened their sound, shaken off their Pink Floyd shackles (a few songs on the debut found themselves turning to the Dark Side) and delivered Aftermath, an incredibly confident and contemporary progressive melodic rock album that nods to, rather than borrows from, their Floydian (and to a lesser degree David Bowie) influences.

At the core of Preacher are the triumvirate of lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter Martin Murphy, keyboardist Arnold "Arny" Burgoyne and lead guitarist Greg Murphy, son of Martin Murphy (a prodigious talent, the younger Murphy is a self-taught musician who can finger-flex across a fretboard as comfortably as he can deliver emotive or melodic phrasing).

Drummer Iain Duncan and bassist Gordon Munro (the latter joining the band post-Signals) hold rhythmic court and create the solid foundation that Aftermath is built upon; Angela Bell and Kerry McWhinnie, an integral part of Preacher's layered sound, provide vocal harmonies and tonal colour.

Preacher's sophomore outing opens in atmospheric style with the title track. Leading with a simple piano refrain and accompanying guitar remarks the song builds to a more full-bodied soundscape with both the backing singers and lead guitar in full cry, the latter's melodically wailing notes echoing the lyrical emphasis of the need for change.

'Aftermath' also carries the sort of dynamic that would make for a strong closing statement but the track sets up much of what follows ' many of the songs lyrically express the struggles of modern life and the current state of global affairs (the underlying message is "better get our house in order before it's too late").

Following the 'Aftermath' comes, somewhat appropriately, 'Welcome to the Fray.' A brooding mid-tempo Pink Floyd meets contemporary rock piece, 'Welcome to the Fray' decries the modern world and global power struggles with some fittingly angry but melodically charged guitar bursts from Greg Murphy (and cool little organ interjections from Arnold Burgoyne).

The regimented drum introduction of 'War' sets up both the militaristic rhythm of the song and its battle-scarred lines ("I see a glow in the distance, the buildings burned to the floor'") before an uplifting final few bars and hopeful lyric bring the song, and the hostilities, to a more optimistic conclusion.

'Hold On' changes the pace once again (building from a piano and vocal opening to a layered sound of keyboard fills, backing vocals and big drum sound) before keyboard sprinkled, pseudo-funky 'Vinyl' grooves (pun intended) create an outstanding slice of progressively-led melodic rock that's as contemporary as the pre-digital age reflections of the lyrics are nostalgic. For all the strength of Aftermath across its opening five numbers the album positively shines on its closing quartet of tracks.

'Vision' is a breezy, pleasant departure for the band. A dreamy, soft rock arrangement sets the scene before a jazzy, 70s styled instrumental section picks up the tempo; Arnold Burgoyne's spray of keyboard notes scatter across Iain Duncan and Gordon Munro's simple but effective groove before Greg Murphy's guitar licks kick in to bring the number to its spacey conclusion.

Creating a similar vibe is the mid-tempo 'Sleep;' it too features an instrumental closing section but this time in full- band rock mode with Greg Murphy throwing melodic shapes over the harmony backing vocals and drum flourishes.

'War Reprise' is an alternative view of the 'War' that's already taken place, seen through the eyes of a man caught up in the fray through no choice of his own. Martin Murphy's lyrics certainly carry weight ("a day feels like a lifetime, being here against my will") but the true strength of the primarily instrumental number lies in the poignancy of the extended soloing from Greg Murphy, in complete melodic empathy with the emotion of the song.

The atmospheric and lyrically contemplative 'Always' closes out the album in fine style, marred only by the fact the up-tempo closing section, driven by some feisty six-string bursts from Greg Murphy, fades all too soon. Signals built from quiet, introductory beginnings to a powerful and assured musicality that was hard to ignore.

The same can now be said of Preacher who should suffer nothing but positive consequences in the wake of this particular Aftermath.

Report this review (#1548521)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Preacher is a tremendous Scottish band that released a delightful debut in 2014 entitled 'Signals' which has had both a positive critical and fan response, a skillful crew of instrumentalists that have a definite Floydian feel , mostly in the wonderful backing 'ooh aah' vocals that adorn almost every track, as well as the preponderance of rolling keyboard textures. That first album laid down some pretty high standards as the compositions were thrilling, the lead vocals of Martin Murphy clearly on this side of marvelous, using various tones from swooning croon to a bluesy growl (a lower register Dave Cousins) and the lead electric guitar (Greg Murphy) wailing like some inspired axe diva, a raunchier version of David Gilmour. Truth is the Pink Floyd clone argument is rather thin, as there are many other influences that mold the creative juices, fusing dabbles of Traffic, a hint of Spooky Tooth, a bit of Ian Hunter(Mott the Hoople) thunder, even some Bob Seger-like howlin' to the more choir-based pieces.

'Aftermath' is the natural progression (don't you love that word?) in which the band seeks to elevate more contemporary issues in an increasingly apathetic and unfocused society by penning lyrics that explain the true story of our weird topsy-turvy universe. The lyrics often extoll the lack of virtues, the disease of indifference, the cowardice of talking the talk but invalid to walk, the over-comfortable numbness of our existence, the complete lack of leadership anywhere except by dictate, vehicles for billionaire tyrants. The title track therefore blasts off with confidence and restrained glory, the piano leading the charge, a wink at their preceding album opener ('Time'), and 'a willingness to make the change' and 'the important things that life can bring'. Yup! I will buy into that, as the emphasis grows into a cool tune about the future and faith. The gloriously cool instrumental midsection has a dreamy atmosphere that exudes charm, willpower and desire, a series of sexy lead guitar solos in tow, paralleling the guitar wah-wahs with the vocal ooh-oohs. Bloody amazing!

The pulsating mid-tempo rocker 'Welcome to the Fray' chugs along, the organ bleeding, the guitar raging and the voice growling 'mindless degradation and sacrifice', chastising the government control that leads our lives, the intrusive meddling that just may spell eventual doomsday. The angry organ plays lustily, thrashing and kicking like some kidnap victim being hauled away into the unknown, deliriously irate and fearful. The guitar parts are splendidly raunchy.

The 2 part 'War' is a colourfully vivid journey (a combined 10 minute affair) that scores very high on the prog indicators, the 'Reprise' in particular showing dynamics that seek to soar over the mundane and immediate. 'Nerves are frayed and twisted' gloomily tolls as the spooky lament morphs into a mournful epitaph, a sweaty guitar dripping oil, shell shocked by the funeral drum beat and the torrential backing keys and choir, working in unison. The first part evolves like a ground swelling storm of howling winds and ominous explosions, '6 am blood on the shores', followed by 'the terror is welling inside us' explains the military mood, expertly delivered by Murphy's sorrowful weep.

Both 'Hold On' and 'Sleep' are concise to-the-point tunes that add diversity to the set list, the first is a pretty straight forward blues-based ballad that ask to 'hold on to your dreams' , this is where the Bowie/Ferry tinge becomes apparent, a lengthy sizzle guitar and shocking drum poundings contribute to the love fest. Martin Murphy's urgent pleadings really pull at the heartstrings, gospel-like choir backing the frenzy. 'Sleep' on the other hand has a buzzing gnat-like riff, a machine-gun vocal and that blasted organ raging underneath, the lyrics and the vocals acerbic and frantic, a tad pissed off at the disposable society we now try to live in, somewhat sardonically mocking the state of popular music and its sterile technology. Greg unleashes a torrid wah-wah drenched rant that scours, soars and glides like some pouncing peregrine falcon.

Occasionally, the nostalgia card is dealt with great finesse as on the supernatural 'Vinyl', a clearly Floydian feel is vehiculated perfectly, expertly adorned with frilly echoes of delicate sounds of thunder, surely a momentary lapse of reason. Murphy sounds more like Fish that Gilmour, but the gentle lilt is definitely familiar as are the instrumental interventions. The genius appears midway through as Burgoyne's e-piano swerves the arrangement into an outright Steve Winwood-led Traffic cameo solo, a mind blowing decision uplifted by a cinematographic guitar solo that has a little Carlos Santana mojo, upbeat and sunny . I mean, WOW!

'Vision' keeps the pedal squarely on the metal, a cool intro and muscular lullaby, lush with bluesy affectation, long organ forays and a powerful vocal, topped by off by a vibrant and virile e-guitar romp. The backing voices whoop up a storm, intense and overpowering, a stylized whoosh of brilliance. Another longer final piece closes down this impressive musical work, harangued by a Martin Murphy blurt: 'a stimulating situation when you have something sound in mind' that highlights the sparkling fantasy, of crystalline piano ripples and well-placed 'ooohs'. Choppy rhythm guitars, scorching leads, churning organ cascades and rocking outro.

This is a definite grower, perhaps more detail-laden than their more immediate debut, lyrically definitely more astringent and a clear sense of musical purpose. Nothing too fancy or overtly technical, the focus is the song and its perfect delivery. In that, these lads are the low spark of high-heeled boys, circa 2016.

5 reverberations

Report this review (#1586434)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Scottish band PREACHER was formed in 2007, and has since then been an active entity. Especially on the live scene, where they are known for producing memorable shows with visual backdrops and light effects adding to the entertainment. The band has also released two studio albums so far. "Aftermath" is the most recent of those, and dates back to 2016.

Bands that explore a style, sound and atmosphere comparable to '70s Pink Floyd aren't exactly what one might describe as few and far between, but while Preacher doesn't score too many points for originality they do score quite a few for execution. They do have some more or less subtle deviations from the norm for this specific brand of progressive rock as well, and in sum this makes for a good album, and one that warrants an inspection by those who love progressive rock as Pink Floyd used to make it some 35 to 40 years ago.

Report this review (#1703500)
Posted Sunday, March 19, 2017 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Preacher are a band new to me, but apparently they have been around since 2007, and this 2016 release was their second album, following on from 2014's 'Signals', which I have yet to hear. Hailing from Scotland, the line-up is rather unusual in that they are an octet, with two backing singers very much included as part of the band. Martin Murphy's voice is one of the highlights for me, as while he is closer to Roger Chapman and or David Bowie than David Gilmore, his vocals blend the three together in a way that provides real character to the songs. As to the music itself, it would be very easy to say that these guys have been influenced by 'Dark Side Of The Moon' and leave it at that, but to be fair to them they don't always come across as Floyd, but instead have taken a host of different Seventies influences to create a very special classic Seventies rock sound.

These are far more than mere copyists, and any band that writes a song dedicated to one particular recorded medium, "Vinyl", is always going to find favour among people such as myself. They say that they are influenced by Purple, Floyd, Yes and Led Zeppelin, and that may well be the case in their ears, but we all know that it is Floyd that is closest to their heart. But, and it is a big but indeed, they have taken it as a starting point and have moved with it so that fans are getting brand new music for their money, as opposed to just copying what happened all those year before. Highly recommended,

Report this review (#1868150)
Posted Saturday, January 20, 2018 | Review Permalink

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