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DIAGONAL

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Diagonal biography
Formed in 2006 in Brighton, UK - On hiatus between 2013-2018

DIAGONAL surprisingly appears on the stage in 2008 like an insider's tip. This Brighton/UK-based band is consisting of seven musicians in the mid twenties who obviously have the preference on 1970s prog music.

Accompanied by a 7'' production the eponymous debut album was released by the Rise Above Records label. The songs are full of references to wellknown prog dinosaurs but not getting dusty though. Based on a rich instrumentation and a sophisticated songwriting DIAGONAL is blending nearly all styles the genre has to offer. Far away from any mainstream this band is recommend to prog gourmets.

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DIAGONAL discography


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

4.09 | 226 ratings
Diagonal
2008
3.81 | 145 ratings
The Second Mechanism
2012
3.65 | 54 ratings
Arc
2019
0.00 | 0 ratings
4
2021

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Leeds 2012
2021

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

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

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

3.55 | 6 ratings
Heavy Language (Black Sparkle)
2008

DIAGONAL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Arc by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 54 ratings

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Arc
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Absent from the recording scene for seven years, Diagonal is an English progressive-rock group that has conquered fans of the genre with just two albums. For Brighton boys Alex Crispin, Luke Foster, Ross Hossack, Nicholas Whittaker and David Wileman, and the newfound Daniel Pomlett, now is the time to resume the interrupted dialogue.

While remaining faithful to a sound halfway between Gentle Giant and Caravan, the six musicians have come up with a sonic blend that includes not only progressive, kraut-rock and jazz, but also psychedelic, folk and post-rock. For the second album ("The Second Mechanism", 2012) Alex Crispin had even sacrificed his role as a singer, but after the instrumental hangover, Diagonal return to rely on the indisputable charm of his voice, often similar to that of Peter Bardens of the Camel.

"Arc" is the most malleable and velvety record of the band, but no less effective and intelligent. Organ, piano and sax unfold in a skilful and inventive way on a rhythmic fabric that is sometimes articulated and dynamic, in some other more mechanical and fluid juncture. It is in the title track that the band condenses skill and harmonic invention, between gritty guitar fuzz, King Crimson rhythmic tempos, short sax and keyboard interventions and a singular harmonic refrain that suggests evolutions and solos destined for incendiary live performances.

The introductory notes of "Arc" are also entrusted to an articulated funk-rock that slowly slips into the arms of intense guitar solos ("9-Green"), a perfect sonic canvas useful for appreciating the rhythmic and harmonic balance of the band. The pattern is repeated in the even more lively "The Spectrum Explodes", between progressive flows immersed in sounds now jazz-rock, now hard-rock.

Smoother, but equally decisive, the instrumental evolutions of "Citadel", with keyboards and guitar that introduce the singing, and then leave everything in the hands of a delightful multi-voice dialogue where the protagonists are a vintage organ, the sax and a guitar in Pink floyd style. Unfortunately, the enchantment is not repeated in the more indolent "The Vital", even if the whisper of the sax that extends over the little dynamic notes of the keyboards has its own unusual charm.

Originality is certainly not the distinctive character of the Diagonal proposal, but the balance between the stylistic elements is always refined and stimulating, even when the tones are even introspective and melancholy. And this is what happens in the more folk ballad like Gentle Giant, "Stars Below", and in the more ethereal "Celestia", which with its enveloping and dynamic harmonic progressions on the edge of jazz elegantly closes a record that will not disappoint fans of prog-rock.

 The Second Mechanism by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.81 | 145 ratings

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The Second Mechanism
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars With their debut in 2008, the British Diagonal presented a surprising work from the retro-prog area. The album was so retro that you almost wanted to believe in a lost original from the 70s. After that, however, it got pretty quiet around the band. That was probably because singer and keyboardist (and probably something like the head of the band) Alex Crispin and bassist Daniel Pomlett left the band. The boys first had to cope with this bloodletting. A small solution was chosen. The second guitarist Nicholas Richards switched to bass and from then on they made music as a quintet. So what is there to say about the style? Basically, Diagonal play a partly psychedelic, partly rocking retro sound. The pieces here are tangible and coherent. In terms of composition, it also turns out that Diagonal mainly uses jazzy means. Bass and drums form a solid, rhythmically versed foundation, above which guitar, wind instruments and numerous keyboards make up the melody.

And with this principle, very respectable pieces are made, which are coherently developed and are always nice to listen to. A good example of this is "These Yellow Sands", which begins with a slow tempo, melodies played in unison by clarinet and guitar against a wistful background of Mellotron-like sounds and suggested choirs, before a brisk part with driving drums after about 2:30 and funky wind accompaniment sets in, which is slightly reminiscent of Chicago. That lasts for another two minutes before a trickier passage with almost crimson-like, but also melancholy thumping of bass, guitar and winds takes over and leads to the end.

As far as the psychedelic component is concerned, there are still strange synthesizer cues over straight rhythms, such as towards the end of "Voyage / Paralysis" or at the beginning of "Hulks". That sounds like Spacerock standards, but in my opinion is less reminiscent of the old British Hawkwind school, but more of current Scandinavian representatives such as Hidria Spacefolk or Circle. This is supported not least by the loose rhythmic foundation underneath, which bypasses any stomping, as well as the colorful, patented instrumentation and, last but not least, the countless jazz rock cues.

So to conclude the overall feeling of the album - the organ is booming, analog synths are in abundance, the bass rumbling and grumbling, guitars sawing and scratching, all rounded off by powerful, variable drumming. Soft Mellotron choirs, flute sounds, squeaky, rough sax round off the sound experience. In between there are melancholy trumpet passages and strange electronic chatter at the beginning and end. Diagonal also conjure up the sound feeling of an era on their second album. The early 70s are very finely revived with this mixture of playful rock, canterburesque weirdness, rushing psychedelic and a dash of beat bliss. The final "Caspsizing" could also come from an early Van der Graaf Generator album. So if you want to indulge in well-played, almost authentic- sounding retro-prog, you've come to the right place.

I love it!!!!!

 Diagonal by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.09 | 226 ratings

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Diagonal
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Another debut by Rise Above Records that somehow joins that group of bands considered as "nostalgic", even if far from the stoner / doom styles that characterize the productions of the historic English label. They are the Diagonal, formation coming from Brighton that offers a seventies-style prog rock with references to the sound of groups such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and Yes, plus a strong jazz imprint.

Seven are the elements involved in the project, all multi-instrumentalists linked by the love for the golden years of the genre in question that is expressed in forty-five minutes of music divided into only five tracks, songs that put us in front of a technically very valid band and that faces the pieces with a certain amount of personality. Despite every trace getting closer on average with a duration of ten minutes, in which we find very long parts instrumental, it turns out to be really difficult to detect any one weighting all the way down the tracklist, thanks above all to rhythmic structures that never exceed in complexity, but that aim mainly to involve the listener. No technique for its own sake therefore, although the capacities of the individuals can be considered as al above average.

Already the initial Semi Permeable Men-Brain seems to be the result of a jam session, with all the instruments initially amalgamated into a whole, which, subsequently, highlight one at a time with solo parts that are not too intricate, but which retain in the their structures a good dose of melodic component easy to assimilate immediately. The second Child Of The Thundercloud puts us in shows, in the opening minutes, the romantic side of Diagonal that emerges from the delicate piano sounds capable of recreating a sound carpet refined, to then leave room for more engaging and immediate outbursts. Deathwatch is also on the same line, where in this case to do it as host there are the electric incursions of the guitars placed at the end of the piece. The sax parts with a distinctly jazzy flavor are also well structured characterize the subsequent Cannon Misfire, definitely shorter track and more immediate than the previous ones, which anticipates closure entrusted to the very long Pact, a suite of about fourteen minutes that returns to the paths already trodden by the disc opener, pushing clearly towards more psychedelic shores.

Yet another shot scored by the Rise Above, then? Definitely yes. The Diagonal show that they have well assimilated the lessons of the greats masters, delivering us a product packaged with the class and experience of veterans, but which is still very derivative.

4,5 stars!!!

 Arc by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 54 ratings

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Arc
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars A band that I've been following since 2008 because of the promise they showed with their excellent self-titled debut of that year.

1. "9-Green" (6:22) sounds like old ROXY MUSIC, BRIAN ENO, and TALKING HEADS. Fun! I even hear a little THE MARS VOLTA with the middle instrumental/guitar solo section. (8.5/10)

2. "Stars Below" (2:46) sounds like the soft side of PINK FLOYD at the opening but then moves into a more folk domain as singer sings and alto sax joins in. I like this very much. My first top three song. (4.5/5)

3. "Citadel" (8:02) two notes from an organ oscillate for a few seconds before bass and drums join in. When singing enters it reminds me of US Prog Folk band, MIDLAKE. The chorus confirms this though I'm also now reminded of GHOSTS OF JUPITER. Sax fits in nicely toward the end. Excellent laid back song even if it does drag on a bit. A top three song for me. (13/15)

4. "The Spectrum Explodes" (4:32) opens with a fast-paced drum pattern (old style sound, i.e. no gated effects! Yea!) As the song develops I'm reminded of THE AMAZING, MICE ON STILTS, and THE MOODY BLUES. Aside from the synth solo and Tony Kaye-like organ work in the second half, this is a solid Folk Rock song in the vein of late 1960s Moodies. (9/10)

5. "Warning Flare" (6:13) opens with a slow keyboard arpeggio which is joined by drums, bass, jazzy guitar notes/chords and gentle sax all woven together into a smooth and surprisingly tight tapestry. Some BEACH BOYS-like singing enters well into the second minute and actually disrupts and disappoints--as does the searing blues/psych guitar solo that joins in in the third minute and remains active between the first three vocal verses. Then it goes solo acoustic guitar for a spell before the third vocal verse. With this accompaniment the choir vocals work much better. A far more interesting and complex song than one would have predicted based on the opening. Sax and synth weave their melody lines with the full band in the final minute. Nice! A top three song for me despite the weak first half. (8.75/10)

6. "Arc" (4:25) opens like the opening to PT's "Dark Matter" before synth and electric guitar join in to create their discordant psych melody. Suddenly, at the end of the first minute the tempo shifts as the multi-voice vocal enters. It turns into another completely surprising vocal-driven song for the next 90 seconds before instrumental passage gives way to synth, sax and electric guitar soli with a little tighter foundational weave in support of it all. The first song that doesn't really work for me. (7.75/10)

7. "The Vital" (7:38) opens with three minutes of slow, spacey organ play within which guitar, bass, and percussion interject sounds and notes before and as soprano saxophone enters to gently flit and fly about above the mix. The music never really changes as the saxophone continues its gentle exploratory flight. Nice for meditative relaxation though more of a New Age-y JAN GARBAREK piece than rock and roll. (12.5/15)

8. "Celestia" (4:34) opens with a fade in of a synth arpeggio which is then joined by drums, bass, and guitar before the Christoffer Gunrup-like voice joins in. Another prog folkie song evoking the late 1960s as well as THE AMAZING. The lead vocals get harmony support in the second verse and then Mellotron. Very nicely done. The foundational music begins to get a little stale in the third minute--just in time for all instruments but the 'tron to cut out while vocal harmonies sing on. This is, unfortunately, all too brief as the the frundational music from the opening returns to play out to the end. (8.25/10)

Total Time 44:32

An album that hit me with surprising force in its friendly, engaging, and familiar sound and styles; I enjoyed this album far more than I thought I was going to.

3.5 stars; nowhere near a masterpiece but a much more likeable and enjoyable listening experience than the ratings would indicate. Rated up accordingly. Check it out for yourselves!

 Arc by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 54 ratings

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Arc
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

2 stars From the acid-psych of the title song to the Simon-and-Garfunkel vibe of "Stars Below," Arc is an intriguing mix of late-1960s styles. 

I particularly appreciate the sunshine-y vocal arrangements, for instance, on "Celestia" and "Warning Flare." The first half of the latter is essentially a repeated two-chord sequence which is varied for the second half. The whole affair sounds like the Association teaming up with Procol Harum.

There are more recent influences as well; three minutes into its 4:30 runtime, "The Spectrum Explodes" becomes positively Yes-like. And on the overlong "9-Green," the lead vocalist sounds more than a little like Wang-Chung frontman Jack Hues imitating Talking-Heads frontman David Byrne. Plus, I hear an echo of King Crimson in the song's ending motif.

But influences alone a good album don't maketh. On Arc, Diagonal seems to take stabs at a series of compositional styles, but rarely has the quality material necessary to make such an eclectic mix work. For example, in addition to 1960s pop, the band tries out some prog-electronic ideas. The longest song here, "Citadel," is a slice of psychedelia set to a somewhat slow, repetitive pattern. It's pensive, and it's grown on me a bit. But the rhythmless, seven-plus-minute expanse of "The Vital" is just boring, especially so late in the running order, after the mostly unexciting songs which precede it.

To those interested in late 2010s "eclectic prog," I'd suggest Mad Fellaz III (Mad Fellaz, 2019), Le Bateleur (Alco Frisbass, 2018), or Decalogue of Darkness (Daal, 2018).

 Arc by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 54 ratings

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Arc
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Diagonal is a Eclectic Prog band that started out in 2006 in the UK, released an album in 2008 and another in 2012, and then went on hiatus between 2013 ? 2018 to raise families and etc. In August of 2019, they came out of nowhere to release their 3rd albums "Arc". For a band that started out with 7 members, it is quite a feat to say that the band's line up has remained the same except minus one member. All 6 of the remaining members were with the band since the beginning; David Wileman (acoustic and electric guitars), Alex Crispin (organ, electric piano, vocals), Ross Hossack (synthesizer), Nicholas Whittaker (alto and soprano saxophones, vocals), Daniel Pomlett (bass), and Luke Foster (drums, percussion). "Arc" has 8 tracks and a total run time of just over 44 minutes.

In order for the band to "get back in the groove" of working together, they decided to try creating the album with a more spontaneous method, not spending so much time trying to get the perfect take. They holed themselves up in the studio for a week and spent that time composing, jamming and recording, focusing on nothing except music. The lyrics have taken what the band calls a "Jon Anderson approach" where they are mostly thematic, choosing words to fit the mood instead of telling a story.

The album starts instantly with a groovy beat on "9-Green" (6:22), which soon brings in the vocals that sounds similar to the male vocalist from "The Human League", but good enough, but have a nice level of vulnerability to them. The music is clean and feels free flowing, but it isn't what you could call straightforward either, as there is a strong progressive feel to it all. A unique sounding guitar solo comes in around 3 minutes, which continues even when the vocals start again. The music is relaxed and really does seem like it is very un-forced. During the last instrumental section, things take time to develop and intensify as the guitar continues, then it eventually calms back to the flowing style again.

"Stars Below" begins atmospheric with nice synths and keys and acoustic guitar. It's a very nice mix, again relaxed and free flowing. The melody from the vocals doesn't fall into anything really structured, it just seems devoid of any boundaries or borders. Short and nice, with shades of Canterbury Scene and a light jazz attitude.. "Citadel" (8:02) does follow a loose- structure of sorts, but at the same time, has a meandering attitude. The soft jazz/motorik feel really shines through on this one, relaxed and free floating. As the music slips into a soft psychedelic feel, you get a feel of "Can" or even some of "The Doors" softer jams. Later, the sax comes in with a more minimal foundation, but that soon returns. Instruments continue to take the spotlight as the music softly flows along with some excellent improvisation.

"The Spectrum Explodes" (4:32) has an upbeat tempo, but retains smooth synths with sustained chords and a more accessible melody. In the instrumental break, a sax introduces in a rousing guitar solo. The music sounds almost like a Moody Blues track in their later years. The beat and meter get a little more complex towards the end, but smooths out again for a organ and synth led ending. "Warning Flare" (6:13) slows things to a slow, moderate tempo, and returns to the mellow and relaxed style. Beginning with a floating intro with guitar and sax, the vocals later come in, and it all sounds a bit more Pink Floyd-ish, but with psychedelic, stoner guitars. Things calm down towards the middle until the track is mostly driven by acoustic guitars and soft organ with the vocals. An extended sax solo has the final spotlight of this track. The title track "Arc" (4:25) comes next. This one has a definite psychedelic feel to it, but gets more intense when the vocals come in with a tricky melody echoed by the guitar. Synths and sax share the solos on the instrumental break, followed by fuzzy guitar after.

"The Vital" (7:38) begins with an atmospheric organ and minimal soft guitar both improvising together. This time the band calls on their inner, early psych-Floydian spirit. Even the sax gets in on the mellow instrumental bliss-out. The somewhat ambient track just meanders along like a slow, wandering river, and also brings an inner peace to the spirit in the same way as the river does, evoking nature almost as well as anything by Paul Winter. Very nice, and quite unexpected actually. "Celestia" (4:34) ends the album with a soft and pensive song with more "Floydian" style, but with a repeating keyboard riff in the background.

This album seems to teeter on 3.5 star rating, but overall the band manages to tip the scales in their favor. The music is quite easy going with a relaxed flavor, even in the heavier moments. It seems the band was going for that style from the comments they made about having a sense of spontaneity without feeling stressed out about boundaries of time and such so much. The music is mostly quite relaxing, and yet it doesn't really get boring like you might think, however, in the first few listens, it might seem a bit same-y. But the music grows on you also, and with more listens, you will pick up subtleties that you didn't notice at first. It's a very nice album that mixes soft jazz, psychedelics and even some hints of Krautrock in places, plus it is a bit spacey at times. Very nice, but not really essential or excellent, but quite good nevertheless.

 Arc by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.65 | 54 ratings

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Arc
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by TheCrimsonPrince

5 stars I was heavily anticipating this release since it was announced and, frankly, I am not disappointed.

Songs like "Citadel", "The Spectrum Explodes", and "The Vital" prove that the group has truly attained its sound. Each member skillfully presents their instruments without sounding pretentious; I especially like the vocalists, Alex Crispin (organs, keyboards) and Nicholas Whittaker (saxophones).

The album is not explosive, but that is not to say that it is not powerful. Diagonal does not need to play loudly or quickly to be heard - that is the beauty of this group. Since they are unique in every way, one may find it difficult to locate their influences; so few bands can become so removed and outstanding. In a way, Diagonal is no Starcastle, the blatant Yes-imitator, nor is it Klaatu, the band that fooled the world into thinking that it was the Beatles.

Well done.

 Diagonal by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.09 | 226 ratings

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Diagonal
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nš 247

Diagonal is an English progressive rock band that appeared in 2008. The band is based in Brighton and consists of seven piece musicians who include two keyboardists, two guitarists and a reeds player amongst their number. The band's style tends less towards the more symphonic side of the genre popularised by the likes of Genesis and Yes, and more towards the more experimental, avant-garde, jazz-flavoured side. Still, the band manages to keep things pretty accessible at all times. The main influences appear to be Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, whilst heads are nodded to a variety of bands from the Canterbury scene, such as The Soft Machine. There's also a spacey, psychedelic flavour to some of the tracks, which recalls the Syd Barrett's era in Pink Floyd, particularly in the build up of the songs.

Diagonal is, perhaps, the first modern U.K. band that I know which truly capture the essence, atmosphere, and sound of the original progressive rock movement from the 70's, in England. Of course, many other groups before have come along and tried their hand at generating the sound of Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Renaissance, King Crimson, and Van der Graaf Generator, in one way or another. And while all of those groups are worthy of imitation, they only represented a fraction of the original U.K. movement. Of course, they were the ones that made the big time, so it's understandable that they had attracted more admirers than all the others, really.

But, in reality, despite Diagonal has clearly absorbed many of those influences, unlike many of those bands, they only have absorbed that influence, not trying to copy it. And so, with this debut album of Diagonal you can get an entirely new album within an old familiar context. And, because the band has clearly studied this era in depth, not to mention the incorporation of the period instrumentation, the mellotron, the Hammond organ, the Fender Rhodes piano, the fuzz bass/guitar and the saxophone, they were able to create an extract of the genre, a mix of many of the genres of prog with a good taste. In what concerns to me, Diagonal have created a great and interesting retro progressive rock album.

So, 'Diagonal' is the eponymous debut studio album of Diagonal and was released in 2008. The line up on the album is Alex Crispin (lead vocals, piano, organ, synthesizers and percussion), Nicholas Richards (guitar and percussion), David Wileman (electric and acoustic guitars and percussion), Ross Hossack (mellotron and synthesizers), Nichlas Whittaker (backing vocals, alto saxophone, clarinet, flute and recorder), Daniel Pomlett (bass) and Luke Foster (drums and percussion).

'Diagonal' has five tracks. The first track 'Semi Permeable Men-Brain' is a mind blowingly intense and heavy piece with killer guitar work, and some great use of wind instruments and mellotron. The vocals are in The Moody Blues' style, although the vocals aren't as strong as The Moodies. There's a spacey, psychedelic flavour on this track which recalls Pink Floyd in the Barrett's era. The second track 'Child Of The Thunder-Cloud' is a mellower track that starts off rather mellow, with piano, but I really love those aggressive passages that kick in. The atmosphere builds into the jazz prog territory with some psychedelic effects. The vocals remind me of Pink Floyd. The third track 'Deathwatch' is also a mellower piece, a Canterbury influenced piece of music, with electric piano and some mellow vocal passages. This is a very beautiful track with some inspired rhythms. It has a long instrumental section which is very melodic and beautiful. The fourth track 'Cannon Misfire' is an instrumental piece with lots of riffs. It has some great guitar work by both guitarists and an amazing bass line. It's the track that can provide a higher proportion of jamming. This is a track with great musicianship and is very intense. The fifth track 'Pact' has a jazzy feel, then an ambient passage that reminds me of something that Vangelis would do, or perhaps Brian Eno. It's a track with great melody in a fantastic ambient style. Covering several styles and with some nice bluesy and jazzy touches. It's a nice way to close this album.

Conclusion: Diagonal is a vintage 70's prog act like The Soft Machine, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Camel, as their music is dripping in nice and lush keyboard soundscapes, jazzy sax melodies, and some adventurous space rock explorations. Diagonal have certainly come up with an exciting and quite challenging listen here with their debut album space rock, prog, jazz-fusion, and Canterbury fans will most certainly want to investigate this one. The album looks amazingly 'grown-up', even if not every arrangement is completely convincing and sometimes one or the other transition bumps a bit. But, overall the tensions, Diagonal plays skillfully with quieter and louder passages and has successful melodies on board. And, with the whole retro attitude, it goes without saying that the album is about a classic LP length long. This is an album to be held up as an example of how to do it right. If you're a student of the genre, then let Diagonal be your teacher. This is prog rock you would have thought disappeared after the 70's, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 The Second Mechanism by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.81 | 145 ratings

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The Second Mechanism
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

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."

 Diagonal by DIAGONAL album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.09 | 226 ratings

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Diagonal
Diagonal Eclectic Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars You'd never guess after hearing the first Diagonal album that it was recorded in 2008: the songwriting, arrangements, instrumentation, performance and production all combine to flawlessly recreate not just the sound but the spirit of the early 1970s.

They aren't, of course, the only group to have been directly influenced by the Progressive Rock stars of a bygone era. But there's a difference in their approach that sets Diagonal apart from other modern proggers living in the past. Instead of stealing ideas and sometimes actual riffs from Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant et al, these guys resemble one of those obscure second-tier bands who labored in the wake of their better-remembered role models, and whose only recorded LP is now a rare collector's item.

The results go beyond homage to become an act of witness, by young musicians with a functioning time machine stashed somewhere in their Brighton studio. From the distorted vintage organ chords in the album opener "Semi-Permeable Menbrain" (an awesome title, by the way) to the Mellotron-induced nirvana of the closing 14-minute "Pact", there isn't a single aesthetic misstep throughout its vinyl-era 46-minute length.

The occasional lead vocals, gently bathed in period reverb, are equally nostalgic: unquiet ghosts from an undead past. But the album is more than just a convincing anachronism; the music itself would be memorable even without the analog cosmetics. Listen to how the song "Child of the Thunder-Cloud" rises gradually from an acoustic piano and clarinet intro to a thrilling freak-out finale. Or the way in which the drifting Mellotron cloud in "Pact" finally condenses into a rousing twin-guitar anthem, before closing on a moment of unexpected grace.

Classic, but modern; heavy, yet delicate: this was a band living the dream firsthand, not just visiting in retrospect.

Thanks to rivertree for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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