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Drifting Sun


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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It becomes quite daunting when the entire discography over the years of a band are all major winners, with nary a thought of any weaker one among the lot. Such is the case with my long love affair with Drifting Sun going back to 2015 when I discovered the band's "Trip the Light Fantastic" album. Since those heady early days, my online friendship with Pat Sanders (in both English and French, may I add) has been easily one of my cherished ones, on par with the one I enjoy with my esteemed Lazland. I must also admit for the record, that both the 2016 "Safe Asylum" and the follow up in 2017 "Twilight" have stolen my heart and still resonate deeply in a multitude of unexplainable ways. Both subsequent albums, the adventurous "Planet Junkie" and the sprawling "Forsaken Innocence" are essential, extremely well received critically and acclaimed by the vast progressive fanbase. This is not surprising at all, in view of the solid talent that was on display! So, the dark clouds of the pandemic have petered out, giving all the time needed to set up the next chapter, as Pat reveals "VEIL" to the eager general public. With returning veterans John 'Jargon' Kosmidis on vocals as well as the celebrated bassist John Jowitt, Drifting Sun has added ex-Pendragon drummer Fudge Smith, guitarist Ralph Cardall (aka the Grump) replacing Mathieu Spaeter, as well as Suzi James (Fearful Symmetry and T.A.P.) on violin, and 7 chorists to fill out the line-up.

"Veiled" is a striking keyboard display with strings and choir, in a very classical mode that serves as a brief introduction for the impressive epic "Frailty", a dozen minutes of inspired bliss that wastes little time in marshalling all the muscular elements of the rhythm section, John and Fudge thundering along, keeping apace with the streaking guitar lines and Pat's sizzling synthesizer and splashy organ prowess, most especially his increasingly inspired piano playing. Jargon stays true to his Greek roots by theatrically seizing the microphone and telling his marathon tale of a doomed affair, a classic human tragedy. A top-notch track that really sets the tone for the things to come, a powerful choir finishing off the arrangement with clever bombast.

That masterful piano establishes the stunning "Eros & Psyche", a duet with Jargon's touching voice, simplicity incarnate. The serene atmosphere is maintained until the transition to a more powerful elevation and the full exploration of the initial melody. Swirling electric guitar raises the delirium to celestial heights, 'catching the whirlwind of life' and closing 'those old and withered eyes of mine'.

Mystical moments among the frozen lakes, darkened moods recalling Odin and Valhalla as we travel towards "The Thing", the glacial choir clashes with the sorrowful lead voice, as Ralph unleashes a few Thor's hammer solos, full of screeching agony and windswept rage. A spectacularly atmospheric piece that would make a Pict, Norman, or Viking proud.

A "2 Minute Waltz" piano etude settles the mood for the next barrage, and it bears repeating that Pat's decision to showcase his ivory talent is well worth the applause. Leading into the appropriately flamboyant "Through the Veil", the main melody is world class, the never surrender vocal delivery is off the charts, as the underlying arrangement is full of bravado, transition, and complex variations, as highlighted by the furious rhythmic maelstrom displayed by Jowitt and Smith, who sound like they have played together for decades. Darn professionals!

The unambiguous attraction of "The Old Man" is self-evident, as the delicate melody is like a balm of comfort, immediately effective and instantly addictive. With poignant lyrics such as 'the old man weeping on the floor, knows his time has come, he stands still bruised and broken hearted, when the hour strikes, one more taste of bygone days', how can anyone be left indifferent, blasé, or bored? The 'frailty' of this slice of magnificence was presented as a pre-release video and it hit me then very hard as I pass beyond the golden years into the final countdown. Ralph peels off an extended and utterly wicked solo, right on the heels of a fluttering synth. My favourite track here and easily, one of DS's crowning achievements. I gulp in genuine admiration.

The finale "Cirkus", as befits the title, is a tortuous cavalcade of emotions depicting the absurdity of life: 'desire, foul sin clad in insanity', or 'time fades away, we live and you die, in the blinking of an eye'. Disjointed organ harassed by a damaging bass, carnival sonorities that transmit a sense of playful discord through the quavering vocals, the choir in full echo mode, rapid fire choppy rhythmic upheavals, all combining to exhibit all the contradictions of the human experience, including the good, the bad and the ugly. When Jargon exalts 'minds burning we know what we must do, plunge to depths of heaven or hell' and the choir expels the air in their lungs, only the sudden stop of the piano announces the silence of eternity.

The Covid isolation has provided him perhaps unwanted opportunity to introspect, and he has had more than enough time to reflect on the human condition during this solitary period (as many thinkers and artists have), finding inspiration in both word and sound. Easily a top candidate for 2024 honours.

5 Hidden Crab Salads (internal joke)

Report this review (#3032393)
Posted Saturday, March 23, 2024 | Review Permalink
4 stars NEO-PROG PLUS!

Well, to be honest, this is my first musical encounter with the highly acclaimed Drifting Sun, while they have released already 8 studio-albums, 7 rated between 3.83 and 4.16 here on PA, between 1996 and 2024 .... oops! During my first listening session I got more and more excited, and concluded that I must have missed something by ignoring Drifting Sun for such a long time. These are skilled and experienced musicians, composing varied and elaborate songs, coloured with strong work on guitar and keyboards, and topped with inspired vocals. What a discovery for me, and what a nice surprise that Neo Prog Rhythm Section featuring Jon Jowitt and Fudge Smith, I have seen them so many times with their bands IQ and Pendragon.

The music.

Veiled (2:00) A short but wonderful blend of tender piano play, an orchestral keyboard sound, Minimoog, choirs and moving guitar, in a mellow atmosphere.

Frailty (12:05) A dynamic sound, shifting between dreamy and bombastic, with strong work on guitar and varied keyboards (synthesizers flights, powerful organ and tender piano), topped with inspired vocals (at some moments slightly theatrical). Finally a sumptuous climate with emotional vocals, howling guitar and choirs, to me it sounds like a mini rock opera, very well done.

Eros And Psyche (5:12) First a duet between beautiful Grand piano play and dreamy high pitched vocals. Then a slow rhythm in a bombastic atmosphere, featuring spacey synthesizer runs, powerful guitar riffs, and harder-edged guitar with moving runs. And finally again tender piano. What an excellent, very elaborate song, these guys know how to please the progheads.

The Thing (7:49) The first part alternates between dreamy, slow rhythms and bombastic, embellished with soaring keyboards, choirs, a flashy synthesizer solo and moving guitar runs, topped with inspired vocals. Halfway a long and moving guitar solo with biting runs, embellished with choirs, wow! In the second part mainly a bombastic climate, again with excellent guitar play.

2-Minute Waltz (2:00) Awesome Grand piano work, between tender and sparkling, I love this, variety and musical ideas rule on this album.

Through The Veil (5:45) It starts with powerful Hammond organ and fiery guitar, fuelled by a powerful rhythm-section. Then a slow rhythm with strong vocals, followed by a tight mid-tempo with Hammond. Now the music has turned into a dynamic and powerful sound, impressive, topped with strong vocals. In the second part a synthesizer solo and heavy and howling guitar runs. This bands deliver a good balance between song-oriented and instrumental parts.

The Old Man (5:44) First a dreamy atmosphere, with melancholy vocals. Then synthesizer flights join, in a slow rhythm and a bombastic sound, topped with inspired vocals. The music is coloured with piano and synthesizer. The tension builds, and culminates in heavy guitar solo, with biting wah-wah pedal driven runs. Finally dreamy with twanging guitar and soaring keyboards, wow, what an exciting composition!

Cirkus (6:34) I am delighted about the way the band has translated the title into music: a cheerful and catchy climate, fuelled by a dynamic rhythm-section, and embellished with strong, slightly theatrical vocals. In the first part a moving guitar solo and flashy synthesizer runs, then a female choir joins, in a sumptuous atmosphere, again like a mini-opera. Finally a dreamy climate with tender piano and violin, what a wonderful contrast with the rest of this captivating and dynamic song.

For those (many) progheads and symphomaniacs who are not into Neo-Prog, give this new Drifting Sun album a try, this band sounds like Neo-Prog Plus, way more elaborate and varied than the average Neo-Prog music.

Report this review (#3032678)
Posted Monday, March 25, 2024 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'Veiled' begins rural, theatrical, with a Mecano tune yes 'Hijo de la luna' it's beautiful, nostalgic, cracklings and a crystalline piano arpeggio, the orchestral keyboard; we see the dancer in the bottle.'Frailty' entry into the album and the direct slap; two symphonic minutes reminding me of the best Arena in the neo-prog vein; an air of melodic gadget inspector, the Hammond bringing warmth, playful rhythm, the theatrical vocal imposing this operatic title on an enjoyable side. Break with choir and pom-poms, a vibrant Kansas violin that of Suzi; the melodic, gently sloping, grandiloquent finale and the distant guitar solo giving goosebumps, all for a goddess story; nostalgic genesisian finale. 'Eros and Psyche' again the airy piano, leering air on Alan Parsons Project; synth flirting with Arena's 'Butterfly', the neo well in place; the explosive, fresh, cheerful chorus of the nostalgic opening; Ralph all in delicacy. Jargon's solemn vocal 'The Thing' before the folk-prog refrain of a Viking assembly; the melodic air before starting on a creamy synth solo, yes it makes you want, eyeing what Tony did from Genesis; moving guitar solo which echoes the thoughts of the fighters, all amplified by Fudge; a cappella finale with Ralph showing his dexterity in breathtaking echo stereo.

'2-Minute Waltz' nervous grand piano, playing with the keys and showing the importance of classical in prog, a little virtuoso interlude. 'Through the Veil' with the Genesisian Hammond, the drums and the heavy guitar for the powerful intro, a redundant tune of 'Frailty'oui the inspector, before letting the sound go on a progressive flight handling rock, pop and synths modern Saga; text on dementia and its agonies with a solemn ending. 'The Old Man' nostalgic, melancholy atmosphere giving way to hope; the voice is more reminiscent of Michael from Saga; guitar supported by the keyboards before escaping on a solo where the wah-wah pedal lets go, rises and explodes for an enjoyable finale with deafening silence. 'Cirkus' syncopated tune, melody from 1001 nights, a waltz, a drunken work, beautiful work by Jon; the tune from the beginning of the album returns here, introducing the theatrical concept effect; the dissonance is required, jarring the listener accustomed to a neo-consensual sound; accordion break from the jerking 'Time of the Gypsies'; this hubbub becomes bewitching with a folk, Olympian chorus; the progression with the keyboard throwing out its notes for the guitar to land on; the haunting finale to create the lack.

Drifting Sun has released a very beautiful album of creative neo-prog rock, captivating, danceable and energetic, a new sound.(4.5)

Report this review (#3033663)
Posted Thursday, March 28, 2024 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars Although DRIFTING SUN is celebrating its fourth decade in 2024 as a band having formed in Chesham, England way back in 1994, founder and remaining member Pat Sanders didn't really get the band started until it reformed and started releasing albums again in 2015 with "Trip The Light Fantastic." Since then DRIFTING SUN has been quite productive and not only has the band released six albums in less than ten years but has in the process become incrementally a better band with each passing release as well as becoming one of the most revered neo-prog bands of the modern era. Following the excellent "Forsaken Innocence" from 2021, the band is back with its 8th overall release - VEIL.

With an ever rotating cast of musicians and backing singers, VEIL finds Pat Sanders back in the driver's seat performing another keyboard dominated slice of stellar prog. Also returning is ex-IQ bassist Jon Jowitt as well as vocalist John "Jargon" Kosmidis who took the last album to an entirely new level of prog perfection. New to the team is guitarist / mandolin player Ralph Cardall of Thedeepstate and ex-Pendragon drummer Fudge Smith. The new lineup is joined by Suzi James from Fearful Symmatry and T.A.P. who performs violin on a few tracks as well as seven choir members who pop up randomly on this eight track album that spans the playing time of just over 47 minutes.

Despite a new lineup the band sounds like a team of seasoned pros on VEIL and demonstrates how to make the proper neo-prog album for the 2020s. Graced with a diverse listing of tracks, this album is a wild ride that implements all the expected keyboard heft with flashy synthesizer runs and layered atmospheres but goes so much further in exploring textures, timbres and dynamics. Starting out with a short two-minute instrumental with the time signature of a waltz, "Veiled" delivers a piano-based orchestral with dramatic a dramatic choir and a slow build up to the album's longest cut, "Frailty" which takes on the role of a mini album's worth of ideas in its own right with its many movements that tackle soft melodic passages with the grittier heft of guitar based rock.

The album continues with one killer strong track after another with all kinds of pleasing developments. Melodic hooks without any cheesiness and dynamics that range from pacifying piano rolls to raucous guitar solos add the spice. The highlights include? well everything! ~ however some interesting moments include the moments of virtuosity which neo-prog doesn't usually excel in. This includes the guitar shredding antics on "Eros And Psyche" and Sanders demonstrating his virtuoso piano rolls on the phenomenally precise "2-Minute Waltz." Another personal favorite is the closing "Cirkus" with its circus music rhythms and Kosmidis' vocal style that reminds me a bit of Anekdoten. The use of keyboards, guitars, choirs and varying percussion makes this entire album a gem of a listening experience.

Honestly i wasn't too impressed when i sampled the tracks available before the album's release but when i hear the album in its entirety i'm completely blown away! DRIFTING SUN really is the hottest ticket in the neo-prog section of the prog universe delivering a fresh new stylistic approach that doesn't rely on past masters for its inspiration. Sanders demonstrates his musical genius on so many levels on this one. I was fearing "Forsaken Innocence" would be a one-off fluke of brilliance but i am happy to be totally wrong on that note. VEIL is every bit as original and compelling as its predecessor and a welcome surprise in the first quarter of 2024. This band is on fire! I sure hope they can keep this intensity and perfection up for a few more albums because this is really the stuff melodic prog dreams are made of.

Report this review (#3033989)
Posted Friday, March 29, 2024 | Review Permalink

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