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Touchstone biography
TOUCHSTONE are a five piece UK Progressive Rock band formed by Rob COTTINGHAM and Adam HODGSON. The band has developed in many ways since the early days, and morphed into the present line up with Andre P (Moo) MOORGHEN on Bass Guitar, Alasdair MELVILLE on drums and vocalist, Kim SEVIOUR. The debut album and follow up to their 'Mad Hatters' EP, 'Discordant Dreams' was recorded at Outhouse Studios in June 2007, and released on 10th September 2007.

Mixing the complexities of progressive rock, with soaring keyboards and power-chords of melodic rock TOUCHSTONE form part of the growing UK scene of female-fronted bands that follow on from bands such as MOSTLY AUTUMN, MAGENTA and KARNATAKA, but with a harder, rock edge to them.

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New LandNew Land
Alliance 1993
$6.78 (used)
Alliance 1993
$2.48 (used)
Oceans of TimeOceans of Time
Ais 2013
$8.06 (used)
Spv Import 2012
$12.49 (used)
Discordant DreamsDiscordant Dreams
Spv Import 2012
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The City SleepsThe City Sleeps
Steamhammer/SPV 2012
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Mad Hatters (enhanced)Mad Hatters (enhanced)
Spv Import 2012
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Live Inside OutsideLive Inside Outside
Touchstone Music
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Live In The USA...Live In The USA...
ProgRock Records 2010
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TOUCHSTONE discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

TOUCHSTONE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.51 | 40 ratings
Discordant Dreams
3.70 | 59 ratings
3.86 | 90 ratings
The City Sleeps
3.57 | 32 ratings
Oceans Of Time

TOUCHSTONE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.20 | 11 ratings
Live in the USA (East Coast West Coast)

TOUCHSTONE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.17 | 6 ratings
Live Inside Outside

TOUCHSTONE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

TOUCHSTONE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.40 | 11 ratings
Mad Hatters
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Oceans EP
4.33 | 3 ratings
Lights From The Sky EP


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Discordant Dreams by TOUCHSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.51 | 40 ratings

Discordant Dreams
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Liz Clayden's stint with Touchstone wouldn't last more than two years.When the band was heading for a new, this time full-length album, after receiving some warm critics, Kim Seviour was decided to be her replacement.She joined the band less than two months prior to entering the studio, so her contribution to the album was not really significant.Same goes for the drummer's place, Simon Cook was replaced by Alasdair Melville.With prog veteran John Mitchel contributing a guitar solo on "Dignity", ''Discordant dreams'' came out independently in 2007.

The music had turned from an artistic Heavy Prog with stylistical variety to a more focused and strongly British-flavored Heavy/Neo Prog, Rob Cottingham & co. surface as a unique unit with a great composing talent and the new album is characterized by its pounding grooves, expressive and clean vocals to go along with superb songwriting and a crystalline production.The material in here reminds me a lot of IOEARTH, FREQUENCY DRIFT and JADIS with bits from the music of SATELLITE, fantastic tracks with the occasional organ and the standard synth waves, offering dramatic, emotional or powerful tunes, mostly covered by dynamic guitar moves and a good bunch of changing climates.Touchstone came up with series of beautiful tracks, the vocal parts are memorable and well-arranged and the instrumental content is largely groovy with many twists and turns.Very modern-sounding with atmospheric passages, lyrical depth and bombastic orchestrations.Some tracks are fairly rooted in the classic Neo Prog tradition with dark and romantic mood changes and alternating soundlevels, going from melodious themes to heavy musicianship.Whatever this style is, the group managed to deliver impressive and passionate performances all the way.

Lovely attempt on the heavier side of Prog/Art Rock, being British they also decided to throw in these charming Neo Prog values.Great work to say the least and highly recommended.

 Oceans Of Time by TOUCHSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.57 | 32 ratings

Oceans Of Time
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

3 stars The female fronted Touchstone are quite a conundrum in the prog rock world! It's probably fair to say that the band are more of a hard-rock group that favours occasional proggy elements worked into their gutsy sound over full blowout progressive complexity, but they really shouldn't be looked down on over it. I wonder if it's a case of a band unsure of where to head, but most likely they're simply trying to tick a number of boxes at one time. Musically along the same lines as other UK female-led bands such as The Reasoning and Panic Room, Touchstone's secret weapon is pocket-rocket female singer Kim Seviour, a dynamic yet restrained young vocalist who provides plenty of feminine charm amongst all the blokey hard-rock muscle. She's a strong role model singer for younger girls to look up to in a sea of vacuous useless pop princesses.`Oceans of Time', their fourth album to date, is perhaps their most convincing and direct work yet, and the endless melodic quality on display is highly admirable.

Opener `Flux' is a stomping rocker with a lovely reflective break in the middle, "The times they've treated us like dirt, and beaten down our sense of worth' is a particularly striking line from Kim. It's just a shame that when the band then returns to the kick-ass repeated riff from the start, a few seconds later the track just stops! `Contact' has cool bass and searing guitar runs throughout with a sudden soaring vocal crescendo that comes out of nowhere, but the band should have built up to it a bit more to really hit the emotional peak it needed. The punchy `Framents' blends eastern mysticism with heavy riffs and very biting `woman scorned' lyrics. `Spirit of the Age' works in introspective Porcupine Tree-styled melancholy and dreamy interludes from Kim around crunching powerful heaviness and some noisy extended instrumental bluster from the fellas to end on. Despite the opening sections of `Shadow's End' bringing a battery of kick-drums and snarling guitars over frantic pulsing electronics, Kim offers a sweet and melodic chorus over icy-cool Neo Prog styled rising synths. `Through The Night' is an energetic accessible rocker that's a nice quick blast of energy, but it's probably a little throwaway.

Album highlight `Tabula Rasa' lightens up on the heavy grunt, Kim pleading "Can we return to a time when our lives were simple...". A thoughtful lyric is woven to a strong melody with a catchy chorus, dreamy Floydian chiming guitars, subtle group backing harmonies, quick tempo changes and a soaring extended guitar solo in the middle. The piece then gently shimmers into a blissful and ethereal vocal drone in the finale. Delicate cooing vocals from Kim during power ballad `Solace 2013', a remake of a track from earlier album `Wintercoast', is another standout, and the synths in particular here work to terrific effect, delivering a hugely symphonic build and a proudly proggy wig- out solo. After an ambient intro, the title track, at almost ten minutes long, is the biggest prog statement on the disc. A heavy, almost Dream Theater-like grandness, nice flowing transitions between acoustic and electric spots back and forth ala Mostly Autumn and charming Rush/Yes-like diversions with extended instrumental passages make it a perfect album closer.

So, `Oceans of Time' is not the most challenging of albums, perhaps even occasionally dull in a few spots, but it's still well-written and tightly performed, a reliable hard-rocking yet accessible and catchy prog-lite album with often relatable lyrics. Touchstone have the opportunity to be a gateway band that introduces hard rock, female and younger audiences to the progressive genre of music, and for this they should be applauded. They offer strong and catchy proggy rock with great playing, and it's the kind of undemanding listen we all need once in a while!

Three and a half stars - but add an extra star for the photo in the CD booklet of Kim and her exceptional stomach!

 Oceans Of Time by TOUCHSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.57 | 32 ratings

Oceans Of Time
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars UK band TOUCHSTONE has been releasing new material on a fairly steady basis ever since they crafted their initial EP "Mad Hatters" back in 2006, and have since then issued a full length live album and four full length studio productions. "Oceans of Time" is the most recent of the latter, and was released through the Hear No Evil label in 2013.

Touchstone' choice of label may not be all that obvious to those familiar with Touchstone as a progressive rock band, as the label does appear to specialize in the more mainstream oriented parts of the hard rock and metal sphere. To my ears this appears to be a natural fit though, as Touchstone to my ears do come across as a band with a potential to reach well outside of the arguably limited spheres of the progressive rock universe. Limited in the sense of a buying audience I might add, as everyone familiar with progressive rock are fully aware that there are few if any limitations to that genre in terms of musical expression.

Strong selling points for Touchstone is that they have a compelling lead vocalist in Kim Seviour, and that they explore a type of music that fits her vocal talents very well. Alternating between fairly soft and smooth verse constructions with harder edged, metal-oriented chorus sequences is a specialty of this band judging by this album, and they are not afraid to craft choruses with strong sing-a-long sensibilities either. Compelling bass lines sets the mood and spirit more often than not, a firm and often fairly hypnotizing core foundation in most compositions at hand on this occasion. Keyboards are used to contrast and complement the guitars as well as being the key element when creating richly layered, majestic arrangements, and when exploring gentler territories frail guitar and piano notes are used to good effect for the subtler effects too.

There are many fine songs on this easily accessible piece of AOR-oriented progressive rock with metal edges. Personally I find Touchstone to be least interesting when exploring the more AOR-oriented parts of their repertoire. Well made music, but somewhat lacking in identity as I experience those songs. But whenever they add a few subtle additional touches the end result becomes all the more compelling for it as I experience this band, with title track Oceans of Time and Fragments as the songs I'd highlight in this context, the latter of them most of all and a clear album highlight for me.

Accessible hard rock with half a foot inside heavy metal is what Touchstone provides on Oceans of Time, a production that can be regarded as both of the above, as well as AOR, progressive rock and perhaps even progressive metal. It all depends on the listener, and what frames of reference you want to emphasize. An album that merits a check by those fond of easygoing music that resides in the borderlands of the five genres mentioned, and especially if you have a soft spot for bands of that kind sporting finely controlled, female lead vocals.

 Mad Hatters by TOUCHSTONE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2006
3.40 | 11 ratings

Mad Hatters
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This is the new EP from this Hertfordshire quintet, who comprise Rob Cottingham (vocals, keys), Liz Clayden (vocals), Adam Hodgson (guitars), Paul Moorghen (bass, backing vocals) and Simon Cook (drums). This is all about classic rock, prog rock, call it what you will, well performed and executed. Five songs, all showing different sides to the band but the most important part about this is that the music is so damn accessible and (whisper it) catchy. I mean, prog is supposed to be deadly serious and not for having a good time, Right? Wrong! This is boisterous bouncy music that can be serious and calm when it wants to be, but generally just doesn't. This is all about going back to a time when prog was all about having fun, which is something that these days not too many bands remember.

The use of twin vocals works particularly well, with the two voices complimenting each other ? also something that is unusual within the prog context. I can remember Mr So & So doing something like this towards the end of their career, but not many since with the male being dominant but the female being equally as important. Given that this is a self release, one has to admire the work that has gone into it. They recorded at John Mitchell's studio and used Rob Aubrey to mix it while the artwork of guitarist Adam Hodgson is superb. It all adds to a great package and is most definitely worth investigation

 Mad Hatters by TOUCHSTONE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2006
3.40 | 11 ratings

Mad Hatters
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The first steps!

In 2006 touchstone released an EP featuring 20 minutes divided in four tracks, in which the band included their first compositions, their first steps in the progressive rock world. Since then, they have developed an own style which though in my opinion has to be more exploded, one can now easily recognize their music. Since these first songs we can notice they had been influenced by AOR or hard rock bands, which is why their music has almost always both, a catchy tune and a kind of heavy prog style.

The first track here is "Misguided Fool" which is a great track, with a wonderful keyboard sound that puts the symphonic element which is blended by the heavy guitars and drums. The male voice is pretty nice, a very good complement, and all together produce later a kind of symph- crossover-AOR sound, that will be used in the whole EP. "One Shot" keeps the same form and continues with the same path, actually, the track is pretty alike as the opener, only here they don't give a main role to the keyboards.

"Hear me" starts with a more delicate sound, with an atmospheric synth accompanied by delicate guitar notes and even a distant piano. Here for the first time we can listen to female vocals as backing ones, adding a special touch to this cool and emotive track. "The Madhatter's song" is the longest composition here with eight minutes length. The first seconds are like a lullaby but later it explodes and becomes heavier and dynamic, with a great use of keyboards and guitar. In the song we can find several mini passages, some of them are rockier some softer, but all of them contain emotional vocals that produce a patron that will be followed during the whole track. In the last part we can also listen to some Yes reminiscences.

This is a very good EP, with four nice songs that show the dawn of a pretty good band. My grade, 3 stars.

Enjoy it!

 Discordant Dreams by TOUCHSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.51 | 40 ratings

Discordant Dreams
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars This is the debut album of British band Touchstone, released back in 2006 and entitled "Discordant Dreams" , here, the band let us know their first steps and the road their music is taking, with a good mixture of crossover prog with some metal hints. So be prepared because here you will have more than an hour of good music.

The opener track is just an atmospheric "Intro" which only lasts a minute until it opens the gates to "Discordant Dreams". Here, we can listen to that metal like style which is constantly softened by the vocals and the calm rhythm. The chorus is pretty catchy and reminds me a bit of Mostly Autumn; here is where the crossover prog label suits. The last minutes have a more delicate sound with piano and bass.

"Curious Angel" has a nice sound with some catchy moments but never far from that metal tune that they always try to implement. "See the Light" starts with a delicate piano and after some seconds drums, bass and guitar join and produce a more intense sound. The keyboards produce a symphonic sound that in moments belongs to thay symph metal realm, though later the vocals make a mellow tune that becomes catchier and in moments, even popish.

"Being Hannah" has a better participation of the female voice, though is not the leader yet, here we can listen to her making larger chorus and attractive second voices, while the male is still the main one. The vocals are nicely adapted to the music, which isa basic 4/4 structure with nice constant drums, cool bass lines and a rockish touch. There is a cool instrumental passage after four minutes, where the guitar shows its skills. "Shadow" starts with nice keyboards and guitars, creating again that kind of symphonic metal sound but without losing the crossover touch. Here, the female voice is now the leader, so here we can actually listen to what I would say is the most successful Touchstone style.

"Wintercoast" is a short instrumental passage that leads to "Ocean Down" which is another short track. Here the music is much more ballad-esque with a delicate and beautiful female voice accompanied by a piano. "Blacktide" has a cool acoustic guitar structure that is complemented by drums and vocals. A minute later the music is more intense and developed, though the rhythm might be the same, we can appreciate more elements that bring a more attractive and challenging sound This is a very good track!

"Dignity" is an emotive track that starts with a delicate sound for the first two minutes, and later it becomes totally symphonic due to the use of keyboards, then a guitar riff appears and now we can listen to a solid and exciting song. There is a long guitar solo that keeps us mesmerized and with the same interest since the first moments; later it vanishes and the vocals return, creating that emotional sound that started the track.

"The Beggar's Song Part 1" is the last track and the longest one of the album, reaching the 11-minute mark. This may be the best song of the album, because it is very well structured, the composition is intelligent, with the precise changes in rhythm and mood, and with that cool blend of light and heavy prog. I love the instrumental keyboard fiesta that appears in the first minutes, and how later the sound changes and becomes catchier. Sometimes these changes harm the music, but in this particular song they help it. I would have loved Touchstone included more songs like this, so the album would have been a killer, but well, this was the debut and they here let us know their capacity and their will to get better and enter to this difficult progressive rock realm.

A good album, with excellent moments, but mostly with just ok tracks, that is why my final grade will be 3 stars.

Enjoy it!

 Wintercoast by TOUCHSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.70 | 59 ratings

Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

4 stars One of the leading modern progressive rock outfits, British group Touchstone have started to turn more than just a few heads recently thanks to their gutsy brand of metal-spiked neo-prog. The sleek and confident sound exhibited on their three studio albums is made all the more striking by the presence of female lead vocalist Kim Seviour, whose fractured vocals appeal to fans of both classic and metal prog, Touchstone are a unique beast indeed. Formed around keyboardist Rob Cottringham during 2001, the Hertfordshire-based group took a little while to get going, releasing the EP-length 'Mad Hatters' in 2006 before the following year saw their debut proper, the impressive 'Discordant Dreams', make a big splash in the prog community. However, whilst 'Discordant Dreams' featured some splendid moments, 2009's 'Wintercoast' would be the album in which Touchstone's genre-blending style fully matured into something rather special. With Seviour(vocals) and Cottringham(keyboards, vocals) now backed by Adam Hodgson(guitar), Al Melville(drums) and Paul Moorghen(bas), 'Wintercoast' charts a powerful course through a thoroughly contemporary progressive rock landscape whilst also encapsulating elements of folk, classic rock and power metal into their highly anthemic sound. The opening, ten-minute long title-track proves a perfect introduction to the group's multi-layered sound, Hodgson's quickfire riffing providing the rock-solid foundation for Seviour's angelic vocals to soar gracefully over as the track starts with bang before gently slowing down to allow Cottringham's nicely restrained synthesizers their turn to shine. It's a truly epic beginning, and one that skilfully ties disparate sonic ingredients together without crowding out the catchy melodies that form the very core of Touchstone's approach. Elsewhere, the excellent 'Strange Days' - a kind of shorter, sharper version of the album's opener - exudes chest-thumping classic rock power with Seviour's singing now underpinned by Cottringham's own surprisingly tender vocals, whilst both 'Zinomorph' and 'Line In The Sand' provide yet more helpings from the same sleek formula. Occasionally the power of Hodgson's razor-sharp guitars does overpower Seviour's folk-tinged style, yet for the most 'Wintercoast' provides stark evidence that the mixture works. The smart move was the group's decision to incorporate a classic rock veneer, thus balancing out the prog-and-metal elements in almost perfect harmony. As a result, Touchstone's second album proves a real anthemic winner stuffed with power- prog ballads, ballsy rockers and deceptively intricate instrumental flourishes, the whole topped of by Kim Seviour's dynamic-yet-gentle vocals. Wrapped in a slickly-wrought crystal clear production, 'Wintercoast' ranks as one of modern progressive rock's true originals. Very impressive indeed.
 The City Sleeps by TOUCHSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.86 | 90 ratings

The City Sleeps
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Touchstone elicited my interest only because among my many favorite prog styles, I have always enjoyed female-fronted prog-rock bands, not afraid of a little sexy rock music, especially if its vehiculated by a strong voice and some inspired playing (like Karnataka, Breathing Space, The Reasoning, Panic Room, Mostly Autumn etc?). I was worried that Touchstone may be a little too metalloid for me but its just the right amount of power and bombast, as the keys play a massive part, Rob Cottingham likes to weave some slithery synths into the melee and does so often. Plus he is unafraid to introduce the piano with regularity which is always a good sign of musicianship and creative vision. That being said, guitarist Adam Hodgson likes to rasp the fretboard with unfettered zeal, his rhythmic work really putting some steel into the arrangements. His leads are definitely in the John Mitchell/Nick Barrett line of sizzling playing, always astute and arousing. Henry Rogers drums like a rock drummer should, solid and intrepid. But the combined vocals of stunning babe Kim Seviour and Cottingham are really what make this such a consistent joyride. Finally bassman Andre P Moorghen plays with bruising bravado on all tracks, mixed nicely so we can all hear him rumble with authority. He is good, very good indeed. As far as the material on this album goes, the release has three basic variables: The great prog, the good prog and then the no-prog .

1-We have a thrilling opener (I have never heard them before, so it was crucial initial anesthesia) in "Corridors", a perfect bustling intro into their musical vision. It's followed by a massive gem in "When Shadows Fall", an epic 10 minute explosion of style that caught me completely off guard. The keys are magnificent, superb piano and whopping synths by Cottingham, who otherwise excels on sharing the mike with Kim. "Sleeping Giants" is a drop-dead beautiful ballad that has a superb symphonic edge (colossal waves of luscious keys) with excellent vocals, male and female, detailed orchestrations (plucking strings) and memorable verses and chorus. Wow! Highlight reel, please. There is another scintillating ballad here in the shape of "Half Moon Meadow", where Kim just soars with utter delight, Cottingham joining in what is perhaps best described as a prog duet , not always a successful etude. But here it's just beyond words, the playing equally superlative, as per the rousing lead guitar solo that devastates with rage and passion. I could listen to this all day. Plus a synth solo just in case you is hungry. Wham Bam Baby! The epic title track is fully deserving of its marquee status, an explosive symphonic ride that is simply beyond the norm, reptilian bass furrowing through the urban decay, whizzing along with the drums flailing away, the keys and guitars ablaze. This is why I enjoy prog, there is such a thin line between sweat and courage, so when you combine the two, you get a just listening reward. "Corridors Epiphany" is perhaps the proverbial cherry on top, a superb little ditty that is heartstoppingly astounding and finishes off the disc.

2- Decent tunes like "Throw Them to The Sky" provide a little breathing room, a pleasant track that delivers a good vibe. The ribald and lusty "Good Boy Psycho" is brash and bruising yet has a mischievous spark that grabs one's attention immediately, contrasting heavy riffs with bombastic vocals, sort of a nasty yet seductive selection. The sweet and gentle mid-section is a complete surprise with some fab effects, could wind up in the 1 category, just on the knife's edge. "Horizons" also likes to teeter-totter between the rough and the serene, pastoral one moment and bellicose the next, I guess this is what makes Touchstone tick. The rough bass line is to expire over, gritty and fuzzed out just like I like it! Suave axe solo to boot. Yeah, this is also near 1 territory.

3- Less interesting is the brief "These Walls" a more straight ahead rocker, that punishes but shows little afterglow. In the end, it does not affect the outcome at all.

This is a cool, refreshing album that will please many in the sympho crowd, the fans of female fronted bands and the metal boys/girls out there who like to flaunt their leather. I am enthralled by this introduction to my collection and I look forward to their next killer album. I also intend to give this many future spins, as there is really too much to like here.

4.5 rocky fingers

 Mad Hatters by TOUCHSTONE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2006
3.40 | 11 ratings

Mad Hatters
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Keyboardist/singer Rob Cottingham created this UK band in 2001 with a much different line-up than on their official releases.It featured Michael Daly on guitar, Mike Forrester on bass, Miriam Pugh on saxophone and Andrew Harman on drums.However it was in 2003 when things really turned the corner for Touchstone, when Rob met guitarist Adam Hodgson through an ad to find that they shared the same tastes around music.Writing material became a much easier experience since then and in 2006 the band self-released a 20-min. 4-track EP with a refreshed formation, featuring also bassist Paul Moorghen, female singer Liz Clayden and drummer Simon Cook.

As the band's influences indicate, Touchstone tried to mix the prog aesthetics of bands like YES or PINK FLOYD with the catchy approach of ASIA and VAN HALEN.The result is pretty much along the influences' paths, memorable, quite melodic but also Hard Rockin' Progressive/Art-Rock with emphasis on easy-listening tunes, good vocals and balanced instrumentation.The first couple of tracks are good examples of the sound: Groovy and rich musicianship with flashy keyboard work, nice guitar solos and modern yet expressive vocals blended with a sense of melody between the heavier parts.''Hear Me'' follows more of a PINK FLOYD-ian mood.Low tempo composition with supporting background keys and nice GLIMOUR-ish guitars along with the best vocal work of this short album.The 8-min. ''The Mad Hatters' Song'' is another nice arrangement.Alternating male and female vocals with fantastic emotion throughout, smooth piano passages, heavy but pretty nice guitar work and a groovy catchy finale showcase a band with talent and capable of creating something great.

A good introduction to the band's sound.Heavy Progressive/Art-Rock, memorable, well-crafted and intricate at moments, somewhat along the lines of SKY ARCHITECT and SUBSIGNAL.Warmly recommended.

 The City Sleeps by TOUCHSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.86 | 90 ratings

The City Sleeps
Touchstone Crossover Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

4 stars There has been a lot of hype this past year or so about this talented British band, and, in fact, Classic Rock Presents Prog seems to have adopted them as the standard bearers of the new wave of prog. With all of this going on, the new release was always going to be a huge challenge in living up to expectations, and I bought it with a sense of both anticipation and nervousness, to be honest.

It opens in a rip-roaring fashion with Corridors, a good, radio-friendly track. Midway through, a lovely, gentle, guitar lilt kicks in, with imaginative keyboards and delicate vocals, before the main riff returns. There is a nice guitar solo at the close, with effective use of a drum machine, before Rob Cottingham (who shines throughout this album) joins in the fun with Adam Hodgson.

When Shadows Fall is the first of two epic tracks on the work, clocking in at just over ten minutes long. It starts with a lovely, dreamy, proggy intro, with a simple synth overlaying interesting sound effects. Instrumentally, this phase reminds me of later period Genesis. At two minutes in, there is an "all stop", before the main part of the track and riff commences, which is quite dark, with moments that are very much of a spirit of latter day works by artists such as Pallas & Pendragon. When Kim Seviour is introduced, she is wonderful, backed by a fast and heavy riff. As with Wintercoast, the predecessor album, the harmonies between her and the boys in the band are very effective. This is a suite of moods. The quieter passages delight, whilst the heavier ones keep you deeply alert. In the former, Cottingham shows just how well he can take the lead vocal duties. This is a fantastic track, which shouts out the band's prog roots and ambitions loud & clear. The close soars into a massive climax.

These Walls follows, and this is about the only real disappointment for me on the album. It's not a bad track by any means, but it strikes me as heavy rock by rote, especially Seviour here, who comes across as being slightly disjointed.

Throw Them To The Sky is more like it. Far more imaginative, with some good harmonies alongside a very effective wall of noise. Strangely enough, the second half of the track reminds me strongly of an old folk/punk band from Wigan called Tansads, who remain one of my favourite acts, and I mention this comparison very much as a compliment.

Sleeping Giants is delicate, with some nice string effects, and turns into one of the standout ballads of 2011. Cottingham absolutely shines here, proving this is not a "run of the mill" female fronted band. The man can sing as well as Seviour, and she is at the top of her game on this one. The synth lead is incredible, and Andre Moorghen & Henry Rogers provide a massive rhythm backdrop. This is a stunning track, and a highlight of the year for me.

Good Boy Psycho (a great title) is good power rock, with more than a passing nod to the mass radio market. It is nothing remarkable, but it moves along at a fair old pace and is very well played, whilst Seviour is a joy to listen to. When the track slows down and develops into a nice, pastoral, piece, it is far more effective. The bass line is incredible, whilst the remainder is dominated by a massive, and brilliant, guitar solo backed by a symphonic wall.

With Horizons, the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. I just adore the way Seviour manages to sing so delicately and full of fragility, whilst Cottingham takes the more aggressive male lead (I take the lyrics to denote a relationship breakdown), and it is all backed by a fine instrumental performance, the sound of a band enjoying every minute of playing together. All prog fans will adore the symphonic instrumental passages, as I did.

Half Moon Meadow, to me, again demonstrates that the band's strengths lie in the range of gentle, pastoral, to symphonic/neo sensibilities, rather than as a pseudo heavy prog band. This track plays to all of those strengths. It is exceptional, and feeling vocals blend with an ensemble creating a sound which transports you to a higher plain. All of this is transfused with an ear for a commercial appeal as well. This is a great track, with no weak moments at all, and a pulsating guitar solo is thrown in for good measure.

The title track is the longest on the album, and has epic written all over it. It commences with the type of pomp opening Arena would be proud of, before entering a more thoughtful, and almost jazzy, phase. There is a great deal going on in this track, giving a lie to the myth that all crossover bands do is play it simple and straightforward. This lot, it must be said, are a PROG band, pure and simple, and in this one, the heavier phases are, in contrast to These Walls, done intelligently. It never loses the listener's attention. It is also, by the way, the clear sequel to the Wintercoast story, and carries on some of that album's finer moments. A true highlight of a magnificent album.

The whole thing closes with Corridors Epiphany, a short instrumental which returns to the themes of the opener, but with a gentle, swaying keyboard solo and a clever bassline. There is some clever percussive work, before the guitar takes control, with the tempo rising all the time to its denouement. A very fine way to end proceedings.

So, is all of the hype justified with this band? By and large, I would say a clear and loud yes. Touchstone have released an exceptionally well produced and well performed album, one which, in terms of maturity, propels them leaps and bounds beyond the last album (and that wasn't a bad album by any mark). The City Sleeps has sold well, and deservedly, and it should prove to be the springboard for them to the top division of modern prog rock.

Four stars for this. An excellent album, which comes very highly recommended. The next one, I predict, will blow your minds away.

Thanks to dean for the artist addition.

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