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Tom Slatter - Demon CD (album) cover


Tom Slatter

Crossover Prog

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Tom Slatter is a Crossover Prog artist from London, England who also has a love of steampunk, and his albums have been loved by both proggers and steampunkers alike. He went solo in 2009 after having been involved with several bands previous to this, and as a solo artist, he has released 7 full length albums since, including 'Demon' which was released in July of 2019. Tom plays all of the instruments on this 9 track album that has a run time of over 51 minutes.

Beginning with 'Wizards of This Town' (5:26), the track has a hesitant feel to it and, as usual with his music, some very interesting lyrics that tell dark but somewhat humorous lyrics. The music is not heavy, but it is well orchestrated with some nice mellow guitar and synth washes while his vocals set the stage for his style of storytelling. 'Modern World' (9:06) has a more mysterious sound, but is more upbeat than the previous track. The vocals have a level of imperfection to them that really works well for his strange style that make that steampunk attitude believable. The music (especially in the vocals) is quite melodious, and even though there are several types of instruments here, mostly traditional rock instruments, it still retains a basic folk feeling to it all. This track is also a bit more progressive with the use of various themes working among the meter, tempo and style changes. At five minutes, we move into an interesting section that consists of strange ambient noises which continues past the 7 minute mark before the full instrumentation and vocals come back.

'Weather Balloons and Falling Stars' (6:16) features heavier guitar riffs before the vocals come in, and the reliance on a heavier sound continues, but allowing the vocals to stand out above everything. The track moves to a softer side about halfway through and then remains more thoughtful until the end. 'West Wind' (5:42) has a slight symphonic feel to it created by synth backup and nice melodic guitar lines. The vocal melody is more traditional sounding and follows a stricter pattern, and it is one that remains with you right off the first listen. Mysterious sounding keys bring a new element in the middle of the track, but it returns to a more flowing texture when the main theme returns. Very nice track. 'Patterns of Light' (3:22) is a slow and pensive track mostly reliant on acoustic guitar and soft notes from the keys, and some lovely vocal harmonies in the chorus. The sound moves back to a folk style on this track, sweet and simple.

'Cutting Up All of Our Dreams' (4:57) is 'a cappella' singing with Tom's solo voice backed up by choir like singing. The harmonies are a bit off kilter, but this all adds to the charm of the slight oddness to all of the tracks here and gives the music a certain 'Gentle Giant' atmosphere. 'Drop Dead's Punching Above His Weight Again' (5:51) brings light instrumentation back in to support the storytelling lyrics in this track, and after awhile, rhythm and guitars come in. Again, the synths add a slight symphonic feel to this track as ticking drums add in more tension as it goes on and vocals become more solid as the melody develops and leads into a nice guitar solo.

'Tinfoil King' (6:08) begins with a heavier and more complex sound. The meter changes back and forth between the verses and chorus. Halfway through the track, the music slows to a more moderate beat and a softer sound with a new theme. When the lyrics become repetitive, the music intensifies, and then quiets down as it ends. The last track 'Demon' (4:51) finishes off he album with a more mysterious feel that brings the steampunk attitude back to the music.

The vocals aren't the best as they sometimes have an amateurish feeling to them, but again, that actually works in the album's favor, giving a higher level of believability to the style of music being presented, and also adding to the nice Gentle Giant folk- ish flair to the music which I find enjoyable. There is a nice mix of progressive and accessibility here, the progressive part not really heavy, but enough to keep you guessing and to keep the music interesting and dynamic. I found that the overall sound and feeling to the album never really gets old or annoying, but helps carry the album to the end. It's not a perfect album, but it is still great, and I can see the music growing on the listener with repeated plays. It's hard to be critical about this album in that some of what might be considered weakness actually work to the album's benefit, so, I can easily give this 4 stars. Very interesting and unique.

Report this review (#2240519)
Posted Sunday, July 28, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars So here I am trying to work out what to say, and there is that album cover looking straight into me, as if Tom is saying "just get on with it for heaven's sake". The thing is, this is bloody hard. Somehow, I have to put into words just what I think of an album I have just played on headphones all the way through four times on repeat. When I reviewed his last album (excluding the 'Murder and Parliament' project) 'Happy People', I did mention he had elements of both Geoff Mann and John Dexter Jones (Jump) and also came across very English (with apologies to JDJ). That is still very true, but here he is taking his songwriting and songs into whole new areas. He has also made this a family affair by having his sister, Rebecca Haynes, play bassoon while his brother in law Joel makes a spoken word appearance and his mum arranged the choir who appear on one number.

Anyone who knows Tom, follows him on FB, or has been to any of his performances, will know that he is an incredibly humorous and funny guy. However, that is only one small part of his persona, and here he provides incredibly mature and powerful stories which are packed full of emotion. This is not a "normal" album in any sense, in that he approaches arrangements in a way quite different to most, yet somehow makes the most progressive (in its truest sense) and complex music sound incredibly approachable. I think I could listen to "West Wind" pretty much all day and not get tired of it, as when he lifts his vocals to hit the higher notes for the words "One Minute Longer" it is then that one gets the incredible power he has to hand. I love his vocal style, as it is full of emotion and angst, broad, rich and multi-faceted as opposed to tinny and singular like some. I can imagine that some may not like it as it is not quite what they are used to, but that is their loss.

This is a songs-based album, an album of stories, which really needs to be played on headphones and multiple times to get the full benefit. Musically it is all over the place. Take "Cutting Up All Of Our Dreams" for example, which is performed a capella. He sings the main vocal, while his mum leads a choir. Let's just think about this a minute. Not only has he involved his family in this, which is somewhat unusual, he provided his mum with a musical score in a time when many musicians don't read music, who then provided the arrangement. To hear these luscious female vocals singing "gaze in the gutter" makes me smile each and every time I hear it. Then contrast that with the following "Drop Dead 's Punching Above His Weight Again" when long-suffering sideman Gareth Cole comes in just to provide some delightful power chords and edge. A special mention should also be made here of drummer Michael Cairns, who throughout the album manages to capture just what is required, sometimes not playing while at others providing just an illusion of stability and just enough drive to keep everything grounded.

That bloody face is still staring at me from the cover, and it and I both know I haven't really done this album justice. There are times when I feel my scribbles are woefully inadequate and this is one of those. This won't be for everyone; it isn't one of those albums which can be neatly placed into a pigeonhole and categorised so that people can easily understand what it is all about. 'Demon' is an album which needs to be played and savoured with an open mind, by those who are prepared to do exactly what I did which is listen to the album for the sole purpose of listening to the album, as opposed to having it on in the background while doing something else. 'Demon' really is an end to itself: it demands to be treated with respect, and in that way feels like an album of 60 years ago as opposed to something ephemeral and disposable like so many others. Commercial, progressive, unusual, strange, compelling, different, Tom Slatter, 'Demon'.

Report this review (#2245952)
Posted Friday, August 23, 2019 | Review Permalink

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