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Coalition - Bridge Across Time CD (album) cover

BRIDGE ACROSS TIME

Coalition

 

Neo-Prog

4.03 | 13 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Familiar names always help in choosing new additions to my prog collection. I discovered the Inner Road and enjoyed their two instrumental releases immensely. Main man, composer and keyboardist Steve Gresswell has a lighter side named Coalition, in which he can develop more openly neo adventures, featuring lead vocals and a trio format. On Coalition's 2012 debut entitled "In Search of Forever", the voice chores were handled by Paul Bulger and the guitars Phil Braithwaite (who adorned the first Inner Road opus), while Gresswell played all the keyboards, bass and drums.

On this sophomore release "Bridge Across Time", two thirds of the trio have been substituted for some more famous names, such as the irascible Colin Tench, a maestro guitarist who can pick his axe with the very best and singer Blake Carpenter, a communal associate of the Tenchman, working together on the former's the Minstrel's Ghost masterpiece and the latter's Corvus Stone project.

Hurtling waves, exigent seagull squawks and suddenly, Colin's vibrant guitar sweeps in between the low clouds, veering around pockets of cool fog and screaming straight into a familiar accessible area, a song with hushed vocals and imposing urgency. Blake has a rather original voice, perhaps taking time to getting used to, as it is often snuffling and high-pitched. Nevertheless, Blake has mastered the various theatrical tones needed to convey the lyrical message but honestly, Colin's undulating guitar excursions are worth every euro, krone or pound. His graceful style can wink easily at Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana and Steve Hackett, when deemed indispensable. This was "Across the Sea" and a fine opener it is.

No, Ricardo Montalban does not sing on "Fantasy Island", its Blake's twangy voice instead, recalling an inspired vocalist like Fish, and while Colin Tench can surely imitate Tatoo (on guitar, silly!) , the piece is another breezy ballad where Steve excels on bass guitar, drums and an arrangement that has loads of pulsating contrasts. A coral-colored atoll of impressive sounds and serene deliveries. Yes, it's accessible but absolutely prog.

"Labyrinth" is where these lads get serious, as it finds Blake stretching his tonsils on this one, while Colin having a love relationship with his guitar which often means he can make it cry, out of passion and not fear. To reiterate FragileKings' judicious comment, while the music may seem initially way more accessible than your usual symphonic/polyrhythmic prog, the dexterity here is very tortuous and quite arduous, flush with various time changes and complex shifts that keep things fresh and delightful.

Another lushly developed piece is "Land of Dreams", a rancorous guitar-driven song swept by intense piano tinkling and colliding waves of strings, thus establishing a pensive expanse on which Blake can warble away undeterred. Dynamic guitar and synth interplay give much significance to the arrangement, with Colin peeling off a rippling guitar solo , sounding like Al Di Meola at times (ooh, that is fast). Vaguely hushed voices and ambient effects crawl into the mix, distant laughter among them, a subtle distraction and a furtherance of the mood. Blake's second pass through adds a sense of ruined urgency, pushed by evident orchestrations, this is a winning piece! Serving almost as a continuation, "Lost Soul" showcases Blake's slight nasal twang, as he forlornly extols the pain of an absent craving, shoved along by rather intense drum programming and a sublime wailing backing voice (a trait I am a total sucker for, gagagaga), this is another absolute persuasive track.

Undeterred, the beat goes on (as Frank Zappa would have said) with a vacillating "River Song" ride, Blake again commanding his lungs forever forward , with Colin doing some serious axe damage (did his ancestor chop Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard? Just wonderin'), the fluid grace of the melodic pace just keeps rolling along, undeterred (stop the poetry, Tommy!). A much more luminous, frisky and bright affair is "The Light", incorporating some vocal gymnastics that resemble vintage Gentle Giant, what with that little marimba/vibraphone undertow, a refreshing ditty that eschews any pretension, just good old fashioned complex polyrhythmic fun! Colin undulates supremely as the spotlight shines on him, while Steve adds all the ivory colorations needed to make this piece shine. Blake does a real good job here, his unique vocals are quirky and resolute. "Valley of Shadows" is a continuation of the vocal roller coaster singing, with inspired Spanish-flavored guitar slinging (Colin is a persuasive Santana fan-boy) and creative keyboard slinking, again infected with some occasional Zappa-isms, such as when Colin makes his fret board sound like a brass instrument (damn him , he is so talented!). Tweeting birds start and end this thunderous piece.

Let's end this opus with the longest track yet, the voluptuous and idiosyncratic "The Watcher", perhaps encompassing all the traits that make Coalition a true coalescence of talents. Blake does wonders on the microphone, an instrument that is given some effects to enhance his manic delivery, sounding very much like a high-pitched minstrel prancing mightily. This is my favorite track, a constantly engaging slalom race with intriguing niceties, encumbered with ingenious bursts of synth, clasps of mellotron and sizzles of guitar madness.

Coalition is thoroughly enjoyable collection of three talents, all that is needed to put together an rousing work of accessible prog rock in the crossover mode, with enough bejeweled particulars to keep things constantly stimulating.

4.5 interval spans

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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