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Diagonal - Diagonal CD (album) cover

DIAGONAL

Diagonal

 

Eclectic Prog

4.13 | 215 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Diagonal's dynamic debut.

Rise Above labels has latched onto a real gem here. Diagonal encompasses all that I love about prog: unusual mixture of instrumentation, shimmering Hammond and Moogish washes with off kilter percussion rhythms. The odd time shifts and erratic jazz drumming shift off the 4/4 meter to 7/8, 6/4 and beyond. There are piano and forte passages and penetrating spaced out echoing vocals with reflective surreal lyrics. Heavy guitar merges with tranquil synth. Welcome to Diagonal's debut.

At first listen one may be forgiven for thinking they are hearing a 70s classic prog album because the band sit comfortably in this genre even using the same styles and instruments in homage to the prog 70s. Familiar sounds echo the likes of Camel, Caravan, Gong, ELP, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. The sound is refreshing and vibrant throughout.

The first track 'Semi Permeable Men Brain', a "Freak Out" Zappa like title, is a treasure full of prog elements. The track is featured on the Classic Rock meets Prog magazine CD 'Prognosis' and this is where I was first interested in more from this band. The compelling power of the track is immediately apparent. It begins with a strange spacey wind effect and then crunching staccato stabs of Alex Crispin's organ punch a hole in the silence. The Hammond sounds wonderful and then a guitar picking effect plays. It suddenly takes off with an out of sync prog riff. The lyrics are as bizarre as Yes: 'there will be time to sleep or rest... time leads on? don't tell the sun how to rise it may fall from the sky.' The melody is gloomy but always changing and building. The simmering sax and the chaotic Hammond are blissful and there is an ominous synth line that descends lower until it builds again to a crescendo. This lengthy instrumental section is almost worth the price of purchase alone. A heavy guitar locks into an off beat time signature and then a delightful sax solo played off the scale, reminding me of Van der Graaf Generator in places. Then a drum solo by Luke Foster crashes in and the metronome bounces wildly out of control. There is a distinctive 70s phased out sound then the track steers in another direction, a blast of jazz fusion and improv and it ends abruptly.

Whew, what an opening. Next track is 'Child of the Thunder Cloud', and it is another great highlight. Diagonal are inspired by Colloseum and Nucleus according to the liner notes and it's easy to see how on this track. It begins with minimal piano and clarinet, the piano picks up the strange signature and Luke Foster's drums kick in. The vocals are reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Mid way through there is a build up and then all goes silent before a guitar strum plays. A low rumbling fades up in the mix and chiming bells twinkle. The atmosphere builds into a jazz prog drum triplet, and organ stabs break in played with finesse. Psychedelic effects soar over the sounds gathering momentum. Another definite reason to get hold of this debut.

Track 3 is 'DeathWatch' and it is not as innovative as the rest of the album, but still captures the essence of prog beginning with somber quiet keyboards and complemented with a King Crimson type drum pattern. Alex Crispin's vocals are moody and melancholy: 'frightened by a chance to try the habits your darkest? find out where the magic finds you' etc etc. A great guitar riff breaks the mood full of energy and vibrant flourish.

Track 4 is an instrumental 'Cannon Misfire' featuring virtuoso guitars from Nick Richards and Dave Wileman and one of the best basslines you will hear from Dan Pomlett. The sound is mesmirising sounding a little like a cannon in places, Nick Whitaker on sax is superb, as good as Banton or Perry. The time sig changes a few times and it even halts mid way through and the bass blasts a short solo. Wonderful stuff.

Track 5 ends the CD on a high note with a lengthy mini epic of some 14 minutes called 'Pact'. The ELP sound alike Hammond is great and saturates the ambience. The melody is reminiscent of Pink Floyd's 'Shine On' even in the lyrics there are references: 'there's a broken path, there's a world for you, everyone will go? start them young, let 'em leave? and you burn.' The Space out lyrics are minimal and give way to a lengthy instrumental break featuring wild guitar riffing and many instruments taking their turn. It unifies together in a disquietening way, with very jazzy drums and bass. A smoldering sax solo is a delight as is the synth of Ross Hassock. The mid section is a very ethereal piece, haunting and compelling. A gong is heard and two solemn guitars pluck till it concludes.

The album is an absolute delight and I recommend grabbing this if you see it in the stores. I changed the rating to masterpiece as this has really grown on me over the years. Remarkably inventive music and a throwback to the golden 70s era when prog was king. I look forward to more from the innovative bold Diagonal.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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