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Castanarc - The Sea of Broken Vows CD (album) cover





3.10 | 14 ratings

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3 stars It was way back in 1984 that Doncaster's CASTANARC released their debut album, Journey to the East, during that first wave of neo-prog rock. It was well-received by many and represented the softer, more gentle and atmospheric side of the fledgling genre, compared to the more dynamic and complex work of their peers. The melodic interplay between David Powell's keyboards and Paul Ineson's guitar, behind the smooth, almost Jon Anderson-like, vocals of Mark Holiday, created a more fluid and contemplative style of melodic prog. However, for a number of reasons, they were not able to capitalise on their early promise at the time and while a later '80s regrouping saw a number of further studio releases, the band were destined to remain a small footnote in the history of UK progressive rock.

However. several decades later Mark and David have resurrected Castanarc and just released a new studio album called The Sea of Broken Vows. Joined by producer John Spence and regular guest musicians, Neil Duty and Pat Mount (guitars), Pete Robinson (bass), Charlie Morgan (drums) and Steve Beighton (saxophone), together with Angela Gordon of Mostly Autumn (flute and low whistle), they have created an easy listening and melodic, song- orientated, soft prog album which flows along pleasantly enough.

As in their earlier incarnation, don't necessarily expect the instrumental complexity and intricacy of their more renown neo-prog contemporaries. Those early influences of Pendragon, Pallas, Jadis and Saga along with Camel are still hovering in the background, but Mark's vocals are more mellow and the music is framed into supporting a more modern and popular style of song structure. Whilst undoubtedly many of the 11 tracks have a similar soft rock smoothness and melodic feel to them - often with a steady, medium tempo, and wistful vocals - there are moments when the music does catch fire and display a more dynamic proggy edge.

A Song Rings Out, starts with the quiet sound of dripping water, but then has a powerful guitar-based Mystery-like introduction and trots along very melodically. The Ascent of Man starts with symphonic and stately keyboard chords, but then introduces has a jaunty, Celtic beat and a spirited guitar solo with some lovely saxophone to end. Helicopter noises and distorted, chiming guitar herald The Walking of the Earth - another album highlight, which is nicely upbeat, with a catchy melody and refrain with vibrant keyboard runs later on.

For The Want Of A Nail closes the album pleasantly enough with some soaring guitar work, cheerily taking us full circle to the sound of dripping water once again. There are nice touches elsewhere. Angela's flute and whistle not surprisingly add a touch of Mostly Autumn on a couple of tracks. Delicate piano and acoustic guitar sections provide a lifting up in the variety in several of the shorter songs.

If I am being hyper-critical, there are songs which display a similar tone and pace to them - which whilst still being well-crafted and sung expressively - don't quite engage the listener as well as others and sort of flow over you. With all but the closing track being under 5 minutes in length, it would have been nice to have seen the music given more free-rein to develop into something more epic, perhaps - but such nit-picking aside, the album is a well- produced and enjoyable listen, overall.

From a progressive rock viewpoint, The Sea of Broken Vows, breaks no new ground, but after all those intervening years between studio releases, it will most definitely please the band's long-standing fanbase and even attract some new listeners who like their prog rock on the more melodic, accessible and popular side. Mark, David and John deserve praise for keeping the Castanarc flame shining for a little longer. Check it out on their Bandcamp site and see if it strikes a chord with you.

(From The Progressive Aspect - A Different Aspect)

Squonk19 | 3/5 |


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