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Diagonal - Diagonal CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.06 | 245 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars One of the modern wonders of retro prog, DIAGONAL got its start in Brighton, UK and has successfully recaptured that transition prog sound that existed roughly from 1969-71 when the 1960s psychedelic rock scene was undergoing an extreme makeover into the hard hitting heavy with the complexities full-on prog rock that peaked around 1972-73. While not one of the original revivers of all things 70s such as bands like Anglagard and Sinkadus that captured the first wave of revival prog, DIAGNONAL formed in 2006 and did its homework well before unleashing its self-titled debut onto the world in 2008.

For a retro band, DIAGONAL had a huge lineup with seven members and two guest musicians. On board were two guitarists, two keyboardists, a bassist, a percussionist and another member dedicated to wind instruments including the alto sax, clarinet, flute and recorder. Seems like everyone played some sort of additional percussion on this one and there were two guests who added even more synth sounds and trumpet. While retro prog of the 70s where a band basically gets a PHD in some particular time and place of music was nothing new, DIAGONAL are considered one of the best examples of taking a given sound that had all but been jettisoned and reformatted for the modern world.

As far as influences are involved, DIAGONAL was all over the map with this debut and it's impossible to call this band a clone in any way. Rather this band took all the best of the aforementioned era and threw it all together in a way that should have organically unfolded in the old days but for whatever reason was squashed in favor of rapidly changing musical tastes. While bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, ELP and Jethro Tull were hugely popular around 1971, they were by no means the only game in town and the prog scene was much larger and diverse and that's where DIAGONAL shine on their debut album, namely by taking the larger prog scene and melding it into one.

Not only can you hear the psychedelic years of Syd Barrett Pink Floyd in the mix but Yes inspired guitar workouts, frenetic Van der Graaf Generator freakery, Canterbury warmth a la Caravan and Soft Machine and the pastoral symphonic atmospheres of bands like Genesis and King Crimson's "Islands." The organ runs can bring bands like Atomic Rooster to mind and it all sounds even more authentic given the instrumentation utilizes the very same technology that was available around the 1971 timeline. In addition to some of the bigwigs of the era, lesser known influences include bands like Cressida, T2, Focus, Beggar's Opera, Traffic and more.

This DIAGONAL debut clocks in at an authentic vinyl LP running time which in this case is 46 1/2 minutes and features five strong tracks that corral all the tones, textures, timbres and songwriting techniques of the 1970-71 and offer extended variations that will please any modern connoisseurs of contemporary progressive music. Tracks range from the everything but the kitchen sink opener "Semi Permeable Men-Brain" which is like a smorgasbord of early British prog sounds to the overtly technical virtuosic performances of the fiery "Cannon Misfire." The closing track "Pact," the longest track on board that sprawls on for fourteen minutes delivers a trip into space with a purely ambient journey half way through. The tracks are all distinct from each other and even Alex Crispin's vocals sound like one of those Cressida type bands from those days.

I certainly have issues with many of the retro prog bands that have flooded the market since this album was released. Some are so authentically retro that they basically sound like clones. Such is not the case with DIAGONAL. This band did its homework for the basic framework and limitations that adhered to the timeline but as far as creativity is concerned this band crafted a bonafide beauty of an album that transcends any tagging or mere classification. This is just simply a beautiful album to absorb and ponder the possibility that this indeed was an archival release from 1971-ish. Perhaps the only issue i have is that Crispin's vocals aren't to my taste. I would have preferred a much more dynamic and charismatic style closer to either Jon Anderson or Peter Hammill but given a large chunk of this album is instrumental meandering, it doesn't really get any better in that department.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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