Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Lonely Robot - Under Stars CD (album) cover


Lonely Robot

Crossover Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
3 stars Lonely Robot is the project of John Mitchell, well known in the prog circles, specifically in the neo-prog subjenre, as a guitarist/vocalist in It bites in their last 2 albums, Frost*, Kino, Arena and some other collaborations. This is his third solo effort and it doesn't seem like he has decided to move in an unpredictable direction. For those, unaware of his previous works, his albums are song-based, with average lenght 5 minutes, there are no long "epics", nor instrumental self-indulgence. He relies on creating the right atmosphere, with the intruments ading different emotional layers, instead of over-the-top instrumental virtuosity, quintessential for most prog. Thus said, it's easily digestible, enjoyable and even quite relaxing.

The opening "Terminal Earth" is just introductory soundscape with lush keyboards, feeling space-y, which is to be expected since John himself has stated his obsession about space related things numerous times. He even won a public speaking competition, regarding knowledge about Mars! Next, we have "Ancient Ascendant", starting off with heavy riff, accompained by Liam Holmes's ingrained beneath keyboards, adding tension. This is probably the heaviest song on the album. Mitchell delivers his almost-spoken quite vocals, progressively building suspense. His lyrics, yet again express his fascination of the human race evolution. There really are lines and themes that make us question our nature as human beings. The chorus features the riff from the beginning with rather nostalgic vocals. After a brief keyboard solo, we get to a reprise and abrupt ending.

"Icarus" feels way less dark and gloomy. It begins with synthwave-ish keyboards above somewhat electronic, oscillating beat. Pretty simple instrumental background leaving space for John's catchy, warm vocals. The chorus is uplifting with added guitar. There is a well-articulated guitar and keyboard unison bridge. This song will probably appeal to any pop fan.

"Under Stars" shows his deep, emotional voice. The musical accompanion is again realy light, soothing, not having any correlation with prog. In fact, Mitchell himself said he doesn't think his work is strictly "neo-prog". It is "catchy", drawing as much influence from pop as prog. The highlight here without a doubt is his heavenly solo, thankfully lasting for more than a minute.

The next song, "Authorship of Our Lives" is probably my favourite one from this album. It starts off with keyboard introduction, again pertaining more to electronic/pop music, rather than prog. Here, we have groovy rhythm beneath John's middle-pithed existential vocals. I say existential mainly for the lyrics here and the manner he is delivering his parts. We get to a more strenuous part, reminiscent of "Ancient Ascendant". The chorus instills that feeling of "rethinking" our lives. The track ends after a short, more punchy solo. This song single-handedly expresses nearly all nuances of the whole album.

"The signal" is just ambient soundscape with deep, spoken, robotic vocals. It feels pretty sad. "The Only Time I Don't Belong Is Now" starts with groovy drums and more pure rock guitar. The chorus is straight up pumped up alternative rock. "When Gravity Fails" is really dramatic with some compressed vocals. "How Bright Is The Sun?" is also one of the better songs here. It follows the formula of "Authorship of Our Lives" - soft vocals, catchy chorus with a good rhythm section, brief soaring solo. "Inside This Machine" is the only instrumental here, and it has almost an Ayreon feel to it. Quite relieving from the repetitive sound. "An Ending" has airy, subtle melody and sad, poignant vocals, as John excels in them.

"Under Stars" is nothing that mindblowing. Good musicianship, stellar production, but it follows a successful formula, and of course, that is not bad by all means. It might appear dull to some prog fans, and on the contrary - enjoyable for non-prog listeners. So, in that sense, John Mitchell did a great job by mixing prog with catchy pop-y melodies.

Report this review (#2242252)
Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the conclusive album to John Mitchell's three-part solo project that opts for atmosphere over excessive complexity. As with the previous two Lonely Robot albums, Mitchell uses the character of the Lonely Robot as a symbol of the current human condition; he explores how our future generations have become scarily dependant on technology, forgetting to notice and care about the natural beauty that surrounds us. After listening to all three of his albums, I've found this one to be the strongest due to the fact that there are a greater variety of sounds in this album despite it having a more relaxing vibe compared to his previous two albums. It's not my usual choice of prog but I was more than happy to immerse myself in Mitchell's memorable and relaxing soundscape.

Mitchell relies on synth heavily on this album which is no surprise considering the theme of technology running throughout the entire Lonely Robot trilogy. However, synth is used more so on this album which makes it more ambient compared to his previous two albums. This is most evident on songs such as 'Icarus' and 'Authorship of Our Lives' in which the most lyrical melody lines are played on the synth. This gives a cool spacey sound to these songs as well as highlighting their catchiness. This is a feature of many of the songs on the album, they could be likened to a selection of catchy pop songs due to the typical verse-chorus structure and lyrical melody lines. However, these are better than just pop songs I feel; Mitchell doesn't conform to just one type of sound on the album. Heavier, more metal inspired songs such as 'Ancient Ascendant' and 'When Gravity Fails' greatly contrast the lighter and more pop infused songs. 'Ancient Ascendant', for example, focuses on a heavy riff that stays in 7/4 for most of the song - a real head banger. Similarly, 'When Gravity Fails' features changing time signatures, especially in the main starting riff that alternates between two time signatures. On other songs, Mitchell's intention is neither to be catchy nor heavy but simply to create a numbing ambience. 'Terminal Earth' and 'The Signal' successfully do this through lush keyboard sounds helped along by a heavy use of reverb and delay. At times it is so relaxing it becomes hypnotic yet Mitchell's fusion of Ayreon's metal influences and Coldplay's catchy pop influences certainly keeps the listener on their toes.

The high point of the album for me comes from the final two tracks. 'Inside This Machine' showcases Mitchell's expertise on the guitar through the most epic guitar solo that takes up the whole song. It really is such a cool three and half minutes, so much so that I always want the song to go on for longer. His mastery on the fretboard is evident throughout the album, with complex guitar solos featuring in most of the songs; his solos come closest to the virtuosity some prog fans may crave. We then arrive at the final concluding track of the whole trilogy simply named 'An Ending'. It juxtaposes the full and angry sound of 'Inside This Machine' as it strips everything back to just keyboards, piano and Mitchell's warm vocals. It is ever so gentle and full of emotion as the album ends with a desperate plea for the Lonely Robot to come home - inspiring lyrics for a generation that need to 'come home' to the real natural world. All in all, this album is an easy listen due to its fusion of pop with some prog elements. I admit I was sceptical after a first listen yet I have come to like it now that I know the message of John Mitchell's trilogy. It is certainly no masterpiece, but it is a good attempt at fusing many sounds together that effectively keep the listener entertained. Any prog fans that are sceptical of this album should definitely give it a chance because there are some really promising moments.

Report this review (#2262095)
Posted Wednesday, September 18, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars John Mitchell (Lonely Robot) is a guitar player, singer and composer known for his contributions to Kino, Arena and Frost. His type of lead guitar has always impressed me a lot, especially on instrumental tracks like Arena's 'Elea' and '(This Way) Madness lies'. I've searched out his other projects as well, but I never been able to find much prove of his genius as a bandleader or main composer. Under the Lonely Robot-banner Mitchell released albums with some neo-prog hints sound-wise, whereas the songs take a more dream pop and alternative (space) rock direction. Because most of the often adult, lackluster and rather faceless material sounds so much alike here, the amazing echoey lead guitars don't impress me as much. Some of the better spacey songs would have definitely stood out more had there been some more straight-forward songs to contrast with. John Mitchell has a good voice, which is often hidden in layers of effects - which takes away from the feeling of listening to a performer. Still, this is very competent neo-prog related music that is produced rather well and released on the Inside Out label on cd and vinyl. Both synths and guitars sound amazing. You can even find an official version on YouTube with a full sci-fi themed lyric video of the complete album! Quite a service. To me this release sounds a bit too much like background music. However, if that dreamy sci-fi mystery vibe is your thing, you might just enjoy this quite a lot!
Report this review (#2382275)
Posted Saturday, May 16, 2020 | Review Permalink

LONELY ROBOT Under Stars ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of LONELY ROBOT Under Stars

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.