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Matthew Parmenter - Horror Express CD (album) cover

HORROR EXPRESS

Matthew Parmenter

 

Neo-Prog

3.69 | 85 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Horror Express" is yet another manifestation of Matthew Parmenter's art-rock genius, and mostly, a particular highlight in the world of prog rock for this year 2008. The album's title is not misleading at all, and neither is the album cover, with that disturbing picture of a giant alien emerging in the darkness of night among skyscrapers massively on fire: this repertoire seems to have been created, arranged and performed to explore humankind's deepest fears as they materialize in the real world. There is definitely some relatedness with the darkest side of Discipline (especially the brilliant sophomore album "Unfolded Like Staircase"), but it is also clear that Parmenter didn't intend to see himself as some substitute of the band in itself. The album is heavily dominated by piano, also featuring plenty of vintage synth sounds (Moog, Theremin) and mellotron: these are the most recurrent sonic sources in the instrumentation, but never getting tiresome. The 9+ minute long opener 'In the Dark' sets the mood quite right, an indication of the overall motivation stated by the repertoire as a whole: uneasy darkness, sense of mystery, abundance of textures, clever use of monotony. The first lines are somehow humorous with those handclaps and playful backing vocals, but the song is genuinely creepy. There is a lyrical moment that states a mixture of early solo Hammill and late 60s Procol Harum - a great opener, indeed. 'O Cesare' sounds like a leftover from an Art Bears album retraced with a set of Landberk-inspired arrangements, and engineered by the producer of Hammill's "The Silent Corner". Parmenter really shines in his softly demented vocal deliveries (including flowing falsettos), as well as the sinister violin phrases. It is as long as 3 minutes, but more than enough to leave a mark in the listener's mind. 'Escape Into the Future' bears a lighter mood, bringing a more explicitly articulated scheme that is somehow related to the avant side of Brit-pop: the use of unusual rhythmic patterns in some passages and the eerie use of synths keep this track from inconveniently getting too poppy. 'Kaiju' brings back the darkness, even enhancing the density inherent to terror: there is a sad mood to it, like a moment of nostalgic evocation in a creepy environment. Univers Zero-style violin and cello dominate the instrumental framework, which also includes some guitar ornaments that partially emulate the Frippertronics. 'Snug Bottom Flute and Starveling' is another instrumental excursion, this time more extroverted while not devoid of tension: it is a progressive feast as a sort of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic-meets- Univers Zero. 'Golden Child' (almost totally instrumental) sounds like a "Vandergraffized" Radiohead. 'Monsters from the Id' pursues the continuity of stylized horror initiated with 'Kaiju', bringing familiar airs of 72-74 Hammill, unmistakable really. The 10 minute long 'Polly New' is the longest track in the album. This track keeps loyal to the general environment of terror and mystery, but definitely the allusions to psychedelic-era Beatles in the rhythm pace and piano chords helps to light up the mood a bit. Still, the possibility for disturbance is never denied, and so the mellotron emulations of string ensemble and choir get in through some specific passages. When things speed up, the variations state a momentary increase of the dramatic potential before settling in for a slower pacer: from there onwards, a sense of introspective desolation prevails in a very Hammillesque fashion. 'All Done (Horror Express)' almost sounds like a continuation of the preceding track, even reinforcing the aura of solitude. The lyrics are menacing (referring to a job done) but the mood seems more connected to the protagonist's inner self than to the aforesaid job. The mood makes an explosive shift to a sustained crescendo whose climax is transformed into an intensified retake of the sung portion. 'The Cutting Room' closes down the album with a sense of splendorous bleakness: closer to Univers Zero and Present than to VdGG or Peter Hammill, this is actually the liveliest piece in the album, as if it claimed a grand finale for this excursion of progressive terror. The slightly space-infected Anglagard-type finale brings a mechaneic feel to the eerie creepiness that goes on flowing like a recurring nightmare. Matthew Parmenter's genius has found a definitive expression in this amazing album.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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