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Touchstone - Wintercoast CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.70 | 65 ratings

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4 stars One of the leading modern progressive rock outfits, British group Touchstone have started to turn more than just a few heads recently thanks to their gutsy brand of metal-spiked neo-prog. The sleek and confident sound exhibited on their three studio albums is made all the more striking by the presence of female lead vocalist Kim Seviour, whose fractured vocals appeal to fans of both classic and metal prog, Touchstone are a unique beast indeed. Formed around keyboardist Rob Cottringham during 2001, the Hertfordshire-based group took a little while to get going, releasing the EP-length 'Mad Hatters' in 2006 before the following year saw their debut proper, the impressive 'Discordant Dreams', make a big splash in the prog community. However, whilst 'Discordant Dreams' featured some splendid moments, 2009's 'Wintercoast' would be the album in which Touchstone's genre-blending style fully matured into something rather special. With Seviour(vocals) and Cottringham(keyboards, vocals) now backed by Adam Hodgson(guitar), Al Melville(drums) and Paul Moorghen(bas), 'Wintercoast' charts a powerful course through a thoroughly contemporary progressive rock landscape whilst also encapsulating elements of folk, classic rock and power metal into their highly anthemic sound. The opening, ten-minute long title-track proves a perfect introduction to the group's multi-layered sound, Hodgson's quickfire riffing providing the rock-solid foundation for Seviour's angelic vocals to soar gracefully over as the track starts with bang before gently slowing down to allow Cottringham's nicely restrained synthesizers their turn to shine. It's a truly epic beginning, and one that skilfully ties disparate sonic ingredients together without crowding out the catchy melodies that form the very core of Touchstone's approach. Elsewhere, the excellent 'Strange Days' - a kind of shorter, sharper version of the album's opener - exudes chest-thumping classic rock power with Seviour's singing now underpinned by Cottringham's own surprisingly tender vocals, whilst both 'Zinomorph' and 'Line In The Sand' provide yet more helpings from the same sleek formula. Occasionally the power of Hodgson's razor-sharp guitars does overpower Seviour's folk-tinged style, yet for the most 'Wintercoast' provides stark evidence that the mixture works. The smart move was the group's decision to incorporate a classic rock veneer, thus balancing out the prog-and-metal elements in almost perfect harmony. As a result, Touchstone's second album proves a real anthemic winner stuffed with power- prog ballads, ballsy rockers and deceptively intricate instrumental flourishes, the whole topped of by Kim Seviour's dynamic-yet-gentle vocals. Wrapped in a slickly-wrought crystal clear production, 'Wintercoast' ranks as one of modern progressive rock's true originals. Very impressive indeed.
stefro | 4/5 |


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