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Touchstone - Oceans Of Time CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.53 | 36 ratings

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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!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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