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The Church - Priest = Aura CD (album) cover


The Church


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3.99 | 44 ratings

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5 stars [Eighth in a series] With "Priest=Aura" - The Church's second "breakthrough" album - the band has unequivocally "arrived" as a progressive band to be reckoned with, exactly 10 years after their debut. Gone is any pretension of "hit-making," or even a "standard" approach. They have fully accepted who they are (and who their influences are), and have shaped and molded their sound into something mature, expansive, compelling and uncompromisingly creative. They have also mastered - truly mastered - the recording studio, taking full advantage of what can be done. (Needless to say, this album should be listened to with headphones.) In these regards, this album and its follow-up ("Sometime Anywhere") are their "Sgt. Pepper" and "Magical Mystery Tour," and belong in any collection of truly great prog-rock. / Beginning with the Moodies-like chords and expansive reverbed atmosphere at the opening of "Aura," you know that something different and wonderful has happened to the band. Kilbey then delivers a tour-de-force tale (in his now-trademark talk-singing style) of the power of love over hate, undergirded by a masterful arrangement full of solid keyboards, minimalist guitars, and almost impossibly lush atmospheres, all building to an outro that Floyd would be proud to claim as their own. "Ripple" has the band in superb form: solid beat, great guitar work, a truly haunting key change between verse and chorus, a wonderful instrumental break, another great outro, and another great "tale" from Kilbey. "Paradox" takes us into "dream" territory, with excellent interplay between guitars and keyboards, and hypnotic double vocals. "Lustre" is the "new" Church at its finest and most original, with a fantastic arrangement full of exciting key and texture changes, and yet another great "story" from Kilbey. "Swan Lake" is the first of three "mini-tunes" on the album (all under 2.5 minutes). Sardonically mocking, it is a beautifully concise waltz-time composition. "Feel" has a U2 feel, complete with a hopelessly infectious beat and Edge-like guitar riff, but filtered through the band's unique sensibilities. "Mistress" is a true Church original, clearly marking the band's unique brand of storytelling, arrangement and texture. "Kings" is another U2-ish song, with another Edge-inspired guitar riff and another infectious beat, along with another great Kilbey song-poem, again all filtered through the band's unique sensibilities. "Dome" is one of Kilbey's most poignant song-poems, underpinned by a deceptively simple arrangement. "Witch Hunt" is the second waltz-time "mini-tune," this time a humorous ditty about the dangers of helping people. "The Illusionist" is the story of a carnival-based pseudo-magician, with an extraordinary rhyming lyric supported by another deceptively simple arrangement (sort of like Dylan meets Floyd). "Old Flame" is the final "mini-tune," this one a gorgeous, bittersweet double-guitar piece. "Chaos" is an extended composition with the band's most aggressive performance thus far, including a neat beat (dig that subtle cabasa in the verses!), a Fripp-ish guitar figure, and a length Crimzoid instrumental section. "Film" closes the album with another great Church instrumental, this time an appropriately-titled composition that might have served well on a film score. / "Priest=Aura" is not simply a perfect album (no bad, or even "lesser," songs), but one on which not a single note or idea is out of place. From this point forward, The Church would produce only top-quality progressive albums full of creative, compelling and often exciting music.
maani | 5/5 |


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