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Diagonal The Second Mechanism album cover
3.80 | 159 ratings | 5 reviews | 26% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Voyage/Paralysis (6:12)
2. These Yellow Sands (7:59)
3. Mitochondria (9:41)
4. Hulks (10:46)
5. Capsizing (9:10)

Total Time 43:48

Line-up / Musicians

- Nicholas Whittaker / lead & backing vocals, alto saxophone, clarinet
- David Wileman / guitar, backing vocals
- Ross Hassack / synthesizer, harmonium, backing vocals
- Nicholas Richards / bass, Mellotron, synthesizer, backing vocals
- Luke Foster / drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals

- Alex Crispin / synthesizer, backing vocals, mixing
- Robbie Wilson / trumpet, flugelhorn, backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Nicholas Richards

LP Rise Above Records ‎- RISELP149 (2012, UK)

CD Rise Above Records ‎- RISECD149 (2012, UK)

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DIAGONAL The Second Mechanism ratings distribution

(159 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(26%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

DIAGONAL The Second Mechanism reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by stefro
4 stars After shedding two members and allegedly scrapping almost an album's worth of new material, Brighton's Diagonal have finally returned. A full four years have passed since the group released their outstanding self- titled debut of 2008, an album informed by the epic art-rock dynamics of King Crimson, the fusion-toned force of Return To Forever, Van Graaf Generator's darkly-wrought heart and surely one of the contenders for this current century's great modern prog records. The fact that Diagonal's original seven-man line-up were all barely out of their teens made the achievement all the more spectacular. However, four years is a long time in rock. For a while it seemed like the youthful outfit would go the same way as so many of their prog-rock cohorts past-and-present by making a great album before subsequently and inexplicably disappearing into the big dark hole of rock 'n' roll obscurity, home to the likes of Arcadium, Grannie, Bakerloo, Maxophone, The Norman Haines Band and many, many others. Thankfully, though, Diagonal's unique sound has proved simply too impressive to squander. The recently-ended four-year hiatus has seen changes, both in personel and in the group's overall style, yet for the most the five-pieces difficult-second-album 'The Second Mechanism' proves a welcome return, even if it doesn't quite live up to the sky high expectations set by its predecessor. Here, we have a darker-sounding record, one with heavier beats, less Crimson-influenced exotica and an electronic edge that lends 'The Second Mechanism' a more immediate feel. The production, too, seems more streamlined, with the abrasive complexity that underpinned 'Diagonal' replaced by a fuzzy ambience that brings to mind such post-rock acts as Battles and Russian Circles. Opening track 'Voyage / Paralysis' is a prime example of this new approach, the warped beats and droning keyboards hitching a futuristic quality onto the group's richly-textured art-prog mixture. The album's key piece, however, proves to be its longest. Coming in at just over the ten-minute mark, the full-blown, psychedelic, heavy jazz-drone odyssey 'Hulks' proves to be the moment worth waiting four years for. This is Diagonal in full, glorious flow, weaving a dense tapestry of grilled guitars, skittering beats and dancing synthesizers into a brooding and cinematic multi-part epic. Occasionally, as found in closer 'Capsizing', 'The Second Mechanism' threatens to slip into murky proto-dance territory, yet the group's decision to polish and update their sound makes for mostly fascinating listening. Its not quite the spectacular experience that is 2008's 'Diagonal', yet it comes close. And at its very best this is a highly-mature and ever impressive statement from one of Britain's outstanding young prog groups. We excitedly await album number three. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars A bit disappointing since I LOVED their debut. This one is not so classic, not so raw, and it's more syrupy and slow--not bad, just never as great or fresh or driving as the first one. Also, I rather liked the "dirty" production of the first album, this one is so clean and pristine (which is nice, I must admit, for the spacious, softer [more KARDA ESTRA/CAMEL-like] parts). Favorite songs: the ANEKDOTEN-like "These Yellow Sands" (7:59) (8/10), "Mitochondria" (9:41) (9/10), and "Hulks" (10:35) (8/10) (horns and fem b vox), and the eerily mood-capturing, CURE-ish "Capsizing" (9:10) (9/10).

An excellent prog album, just not up to the pace set forth by their first one. Still, recommended. (Just try to take it on its own terms--forget the dynamism of the first release.)

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. DIAGONAL's debut blew a lot of people away including myself with that late sixties / early seventies style. There was plenty of space for the instruments to breathe and the sax / clarinet and mellotron were certainly welcomed sounds along with the other vintage instruments. Here we are four years later and with a bit different lineup as the bass player and organist have left making this a five piece band now. The organ is now gone but we still get mellotron it's just not as easy to hear as this band has completely changed it's style. The space to breathe that I mentioned about the debut is gone as we get a full and thick sound almost constantly. So imagine the horns as being part of the sound now instead of being seperate like all of the instruments. This is more of a "rock" album and much more modern sounding while it comes across like they are jamming a lot with repetitive melodies. Way less vocals too when compared to the debut. And all of this is not a bad thing as this is a great album. Just different.

"Voyage / Paralysis" opens with spacey and bubbly sounds and the album will end this way as well. The band then kicks in with horns outfront. Spacey synths join in after 3 minutes as the horns stop then the guitar comes to the fore. Horns are back as they continue to jam. "These Yellow Sands" is more laid back with horns helping out. This is such a great track. I like the way the tempo shifts at times in this one too. Love the guitar 6 minutes in. "Mitochondria" opens quietly with bass and then the piano joins in followed by laid back horns. A change after 2 minutes as the song kicks in heavier. Check out the guitar 5 1/2 minutes in.

"Hulks" is the only track with vocals on it but they are brief. Drums and horns lead early then it settles back as the vocals join in around a minute.They don't stay long. A change before 3 minutes as it turns darker. It becomes intense after 4 minutes and this intensity is building. Nice. I like the vocal melodies late as the guitar rips it up. "Capsizing" is spacey to start with plenty of atmosphere. It starts to pick up before 1 1/2 minutes. So good. Horns play over the fast beat. The guitar replaces the horns before 5 1/2 minutes but the horns re-join quickly and eventually lead again. It ends with those bubbly synths.

There are some guest trumpet and flugelhorn this time around besides the sax and clarinet. This is a fantastic album but I can see many being disappointed because they want a repeat of the debut. It just shows how incredibly talented these guys are that they can change styles and still hit one out of the park.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars British band Diagonal released a very impressive self-titled debut back in 2008, with the seven member band of young musicians playing a mix of retro styled prog with a modern, heavy and youthful indie-rock energy. Sax, clarinet, flute and recorder weaved around pounding piano and eerie electronics to suggest a Van der Graaf Generator influence, although admittedly the album was somewhat let down in parts by rather flat vocals. Still, the album was strong enough to gain the group a strong `word of mouth' buzz that suggested they were one to watch, although the band would sadly lose just a bit of momentum by taking four years to record the follow up, but hot-damn, was the wait ever worth it! 2012's `The Second Mechanism' sees the band tearing through five lengthy and eclectic instrumentals (although the one track to feature vocals this time is an improvement on the debut), full of aggressive playing, delirious yet seamless constant changes in direction and a noisy daring unpredictability. Imagine a mix of Anekdoten, the Mars Volta, Van der Graaf Generator, Anglagard and King Crimson with a touch of Post Rock, and you're a little closer to what the band take even further.

Throughout opener `Voyage/Paralysis', eerie twitching electronics are torn apart by pounding call-to-arms drums, vibrating mud-thick pulsing bass and serrated electric guitar ringing. In just over six minutes, the band also dart through deranged spiralling synth freak-outs, angular jazzy diversions and dirty sax droning - phew, got all that?! `These Yellow Sands' adds a pinch of Post Rock build and is unsurprisingly (with that title) lightly flecked with stormy eastern vibes, adding chiming guitar mystery, crystalline electric piano sparkles, relentless drumming and ghostly sighing low-key cries, and sax that moves from dusty wafts to honking blasts, stormy rumbles and manic up-tempo bursts bring back that Van der Graaf Generator flavour of the first album. `Mitochondria' floats through wandering melancholic bass over spectral piano and lonely horns before picking up in-tempo and furiously bouncing through a thunderous manic rumble of jagged stop-start guitar spasms, drum battery and haunting maddening sax - plenty of power and tension in this one!

The second side's `Hulks' introduces a sparingly used doomed weary regal vocal that, alongside murky bass, droning distortion, rising/falling electronics and constant cutting sax/guitar slices twisting in unison, helps capture that despondent mood similar to bands like Anglagard and White Willow at their most drizzly, and there's plenty of dark unease bubbling under the surface. Slowly unfolding ambient synth washes coat `Capsizing's background (and is that a touch of the Mellotron buried in there too?), but the piece rapidly grows in restless momentum and has the band all delivering break-neck soloing, the highlight being some fuzzy bass vibrations, infectious sax runs with stirring clarinet and noisy jazzy breakdowns that are deliciously darkly grooving. It's a little more upbeat than the previous tracks, so ends the album on a somewhat warmer note.

Sadly since its release, the band seem to have gone rather quiet (worryingly their website has vanished and their Facebook page hasn't been updated in almost two years), which might suggest the group may have finally folded, but let's hope it's just the calm before the storm of their next release. There is too much exciting potential, completely evident talent and top-notch playing on display here, and if anything, `The Second Mechanism' sets an indie-prog, vintage-meets-modern standard that more bands and listeners should have been paying attention to. Completing surpassing the already great debut, it's a cruelly ignored disc that deserves a new lease of life and rediscovery, no matter how belated.

Five stars.

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars 2012 saw the belated release of the sophomore effort by a young British group who made a splash with their debut album four years earlier, and after this one vanished with barely a ripple.

The new music was the same throwback Heavy Prog as before: a convincing facsimile of the early 1970s, nimbly tracing the analog footprints of the band's musical forefathers. But several shifts in personnel over the preceding four years (losing two key players; consolidating the remaining quintet) left its mark on their sound, which by necessity had to be kept on a tighter leash this time.

Make no mistake: there's no shortage of excellent music here, played with admirable skill and dedication. The aggressive yet measured "Voyage/Paralysis" opens the album on a Crimson-influenced rabbit punch, and the repetitive drive of "These Yellow Sands" builds to an undeniably thrilling, breakneck climax, setting up the ominous "Mitochondria", with its distant echoes of classic Van Der Graaf Generator.

But a degree of momentum was obviously lost in the long wait between albums. And the exertion needed to rebuild it from scratch can perhaps be heard in the more deliberate compositional focus within each track, most of them instrumental (the unfortunate vocals in the song "Hulks" were thankfully kept to a minimum).

In my review of the band's self-titled debut I applauded the way they managed to avoid the copycat habits of other retro-proggers, by not trying to mimic Yes, Genesis et al. Instead, the album (and this one also, to a lesser extent) sounded not unlike a 1971 cult act, newly rediscovered. It's an approach that made their old-school aesthetic fresh again, but at the same time posed a unique problem.

The music of those second-tier Progressive rockers from the 1970s is enhanced today by distance and nostalgia, as reminders of a lost Golden Age when true musical creativity hadn't yet been marginalized by the demands of commerce. But Diagonal doesn't enjoy that same advantage: the band is too new and working in a different zeitgeist, which might explain why the experiment folded after only a couple of albums, both of them quite strong. This second and possibly last recorded effort is a notch below their first, but it improves when heard in sequence. Spin the '08 debut, and then play this one to better appreciate the refinement of purpose.

Hopefully the group is only dormant, not completely dead. Of course, the same wish could easily apply to the style of music itself, but in the immortal words of Clarence Darrow (a true progressive, but not a rocker): "Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for."

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