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Drifting Sun - Safe Asylum CD (album) cover

SAFE ASYLUM

Drifting Sun

Neo-Prog


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4 stars Just a few days ago, Drifting Sun released their new album named Safe Asylum. Safe Alylum has a fantastic cover, made by A Russian artist as Pat Sanders told me, but I don't remember the name to be honest. But in comparison with "Trip" this is better by far! As for the music, it is clear to me that the band tried to create something different this time, in comparison with their previous album. 'Trip the Life Fantastic' was a lighter and more melodic album, with Pat's piano being the leading instrument in most occasions. It was included shorter compositions and more "catchy" melodies. Safe Asylum is darker, with longer and more complex compositions. Because of that, it needs a few more listening in order to appreciate it. With every listening the album "grows" in you, and then it is very hard to leave it aside. There are some similarities with the previous album of course, like for example the beautiful melodic passages and the strong guitar riffs and solos. Safe Asylum includes 8 tracks(plus 2 bonus in the limited edition). 3 of them were included in last year's EP release, under the name 'Alice'. These 3 songs are: Alice, Vagabond and Emphasis. I am not going to get into details and write about each song separately, but I will mention my most favourite songs, which are the following: The Hidden Truth, Intruder, Desolation-Retribution, Wonderland and Gods. The latter is the highlight of the album. (In my opinion, of course). Although Safe Asylum is a rather different album in comparison with 'Trip', it is equally good if not better. Definitely a very serious piece of work that deserves your attention! Recommended to the fans of modern Progressive Rock, Neo-Prog and to all those who can appreciate a well-structured album, with beautiful melodies and strong emotions in it. My Rating would be 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.
Report this review (#1572745)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Drifting Sun is one of those bands that have come up on my radar recently, intrigued by some of the reviews that speak very highly of their quality neo-prog as well as the rather interesting history. Keyboardist Patrick Sanders is actually a French national who, along with bassist Manu Sibona tried creating a band called Drama in his home country but that name was already taken by Eric Azhar and his mates. Pat then went to Canada (Quebec for a while) and then established himself in the UK, founding Drifting Sun in 1996, surrounding himself with top notch local British musicians. "Safe Asylum" is their fourth release and it's a real jewel, taking into account that for neo-prog to be brilliant, it requires fabulous instrumental prowess, a concise vision and stylistic delivery. These pro players are a well-rounded team, led by Sanders' arsenal of keyboards, guitarist Dan Storey has both grit and fluency in his sharp technique, drummer Will Jones provides a rock solid foundational rhythm to the arrangements, while vocalist Peter Falconer owns an immediately attractive set of vocal chords. I am not familiar with their previous releases but if "Safe Asylum" is any kind of barometer then I look forward to having all their highly rated prior albums in my collection.

A stirring 8 minute+ piece kicks off the proceedings, "King of Hearts" is the owner of sensational contrasts, a suave universe where soft melodic passages that exude charm coalesce with powerful surges, a myriad of rhythmic alterations, chock full of bombastic keyboard swerves and a fab vocalist who strangely reminds me of Lou Gramm of Foreigner fame, a unswerving compliment if I may say! What a way to kick off an album, exciting, frenzied, slick and bluesy emotions are all there to stun into silence!

"The Hidden Truth" keeps the delicate sound of their thunder blasting along, this time a lot smoother groove with choppy, almost jazzy rhythmic pulses and a delectable melody, sung to utter perfection by Falconer. Storey peels off an intricate and extended axe solo, laden with emotive gulp, a slowly built sizzle that bites the melodic hand that feeds it, blending in acoustic guitar when needed, all the while helped along by the sublime synths and ornate piano. Drummer Jones is in the spotlight with his deft wrists doing some nifty tricks.

The longest track here , the dreamy "Intruder " clocks in over 10 minutes and is definitely a highlight track, showcasing all the accumulated strengths that exude from these rather stellar craftsmen, a particular attention to a shrieking vocal that will 'shiver me timbers", sincerely frightening and deliverer of goose bump emotions. The keyboard and guitar interplay are reminiscent of the legendary Mick Rogers-Manfred Mann duo, hitting notes like two power tennis sluggers, smashing, lobbing, volleying and acing like no other. The ominous lyrical content is equally interesting, dealing with sombre subject matter, submerged in dark and moody atmospheres, like some distant hurricane waiting to destroy.

A moment of respite is needed after all that urgent experience, the delicate "Alice" is initially led by piano and voice. And what a voice! Peter Falconer hits a higher register than previously thought, a bucolic ballad in a very English style, about some 'pretty girl', all innocence and desire, fueled by a gorgeous, violin-led orchestral passage that has a Beatles-like hue that cannot be ignored. Absolutely spellbinding! Four tracks in and you can already tell this will be a masterpiece! And of course, if there is an "Alice", there must be a "Wonderland" not too far away and the 8 minute segue fits perfectly into their creative development, a darker universe of more complex symphonics, a measured pace with a huskier voice from this fabulously talented vocalist! A dreamy piano sequence is then followed by a harder guitar rampage, a slick organ in tow as the rhythmic section heightens the propulsion with a surging vocal that pants and emotes like no other. Pat then twirls and dances with his guitar partner, who blitzes with the best, lightning fast and hyper bluesy. Bold, insistent, confident, sizzling and proud, this is truly another sublime track on a truly remarkable release.

The yearning towards the divine comes across on the appropriately named "Gods", proprietor of a ridiculously perfect melody, celestial chorus and that eternal contrast between soft and hard, as if defining the links between Heaven and Hell, gloriously majestic and enchanting. Once again, Falconer's pipes really do wonders, a modern-day Hercules of the microphone.

Back to darker expanses with the stark "Desolation" and its companion piece "Retribution", perfectly highlighting the unique methodology of doubling up songs in pairs, paralleling their sonic palette philosophy as well as the obvious symbiosis between soloists. 'Close your eyes' Peter intones in a broken monotone (the man can sing, bellow, wail, whisper and shout). Will Jones does his best Chris Slade imitation (another compliment), pummeling his skins with apparent ease and effect. A torrid fretboard solo ensues, shoved along by a pugnacious bass, slithering synth and driving organ. Delirium! I really cannot help seeing the comparison to a modern and proggier version of Manfred Mann's Earth Band, circa "Bombers & Nightingales". That is another compliment of the highest standard!

The super short guitar solo is just pure "Emphasis", a lovely wink and nod. This tremendous disc is finished up with a gorgeous piano-driven instrumental piece "Vagabond", Pat firmly in the thin beam of the spotlight, his synths not far behind, while Dan Storey introduces his thrilling wah-wah pedal to the mix, caressing his instrument with conviction and unabashed zeal.

One of the finest recordings one is to listen to in 2016, a kaleidoscope of crystalline instrumental interplay and stellar vocalizing, within songs that have both depth, thunder and emotion. Lovely artwork, great sonic production and a truly first rate package. This just might finish on top of my 2016 list, as I would have a hard time imagining anyone else knocking this one lower. It's a 'safe asylum'.

5 Innocuous Havens

Report this review (#1584419)
Posted Friday, July 1, 2016 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Bands playing neo-prog inspired by the 1980s work of Marillion, Pendragon and IQ aren't exactly thin on the ground, but Drifting Sun stand out of the crowd on Safe Asylum with how capably they are able to produce beautiful moments comparable to the most emotive heights that their neo-prog inspirations could evoke at their prime. Guitarist Dan Storey in particular deserves praise for adding a darker and harder-edged tone to proceedings which helps Drifting Sun carve out a distinctive musical sphere for themselves, whilst Pat Sanders deserves to sit next to Mark Kelly and Clive Nolan in the pantheon of neo-prog keyboardists.
Report this review (#1585015)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2016 | Review Permalink

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