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Lonely Robot - Under Stars CD (album) cover

UNDER STARS

Lonely Robot

 

Crossover Prog

3.38 | 34 ratings

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The Duke of Prunes
3 stars Lonely Robot is the project of John Mitchell, well known in the prog circles, specifically in the neo-prog subjenre, as a guitarist/vocalist in It bites in their last 2 albums, Frost*, Kino, Arena and some other collaborations. This is his third solo effort and it doesn't seem like he has decided to move in an unpredictable direction. For those, unaware of his previous works, his albums are song-based, with average lenght 5 minutes, there are no long "epics", nor instrumental self-indulgence. He relies on creating the right atmosphere, with the intruments ading different emotional layers, instead of over-the-top instrumental virtuosity, quintessential for most prog. Thus said, it's easily digestible, enjoyable and even quite relaxing.

The opening "Terminal Earth" is just introductory soundscape with lush keyboards, feeling space-y, which is to be expected since John himself has stated his obsession about space related things numerous times. He even won a public speaking competition, regarding knowledge about Mars! Next, we have "Ancient Ascendant", starting off with heavy riff, accompained by Liam Holmes's ingrained beneath keyboards, adding tension. This is probably the heaviest song on the album. Mitchell delivers his almost-spoken quite vocals, progressively building suspense. His lyrics, yet again express his fascination of the human race evolution. There really are lines and themes that make us question our nature as human beings. The chorus features the riff from the beginning with rather nostalgic vocals. After a brief keyboard solo, we get to a reprise and abrupt ending.

"Icarus" feels way less dark and gloomy. It begins with synthwave-ish keyboards above somewhat electronic, oscillating beat. Pretty simple instrumental background leaving space for John's catchy, warm vocals. The chorus is uplifting with added guitar. There is a well-articulated guitar and keyboard unison bridge. This song will probably appeal to any pop fan.

"Under Stars" shows his deep, emotional voice. The musical accompanion is again realy light, soothing, not having any correlation with prog. In fact, Mitchell himself said he doesn't think his work is strictly "neo-prog". It is "catchy", drawing as much influence from pop as prog. The highlight here without a doubt is his heavenly solo, thankfully lasting for more than a minute.

The next song, "Authorship of Our Lives" is probably my favourite one from this album. It starts off with keyboard introduction, again pertaining more to electronic/pop music, rather than prog. Here, we have groovy rhythm beneath John's middle-pithed existential vocals. I say existential mainly for the lyrics here and the manner he is delivering his parts. We get to a more strenuous part, reminiscent of "Ancient Ascendant". The chorus instills that feeling of "rethinking" our lives. The track ends after a short, more punchy solo. This song single-handedly expresses nearly all nuances of the whole album.

"The signal" is just ambient soundscape with deep, spoken, robotic vocals. It feels pretty sad. "The Only Time I Don't Belong Is Now" starts with groovy drums and more pure rock guitar. The chorus is straight up pumped up alternative rock. "When Gravity Fails" is really dramatic with some compressed vocals. "How Bright Is The Sun?" is also one of the better songs here. It follows the formula of "Authorship of Our Lives" - soft vocals, catchy chorus with a good rhythm section, brief soaring solo. "Inside This Machine" is the only instrumental here, and it has almost an Ayreon feel to it. Quite relieving from the repetitive sound. "An Ending" has airy, subtle melody and sad, poignant vocals, as John excels in them.

"Under Stars" is nothing that mindblowing. Good musicianship, stellar production, but it follows a successful formula, and of course, that is not bad by all means. It might appear dull to some prog fans, and on the contrary - enjoyable for non-prog listeners. So, in that sense, John Mitchell did a great job by mixing prog with catchy pop-y melodies.

The Duke of Prunes | 3/5 |

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