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Country Lane -  Substratum  CD (album) cover

SUBSTRATUM

Country Lane

 

Heavy Prog

3.16 | 29 ratings

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Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars Really 3.5 stars

Some years ago a former co-member of the Symphonic Team and very good friend H.T. Riekels and I decided to own at least one album from each band in the Symphonic catalog, one of the few bands missing was COUNTRY LANE, so when I found a copy of "Substratum" on a second hand store at a very cheap price, bought it without any doubt.

In the route to my house, placed the CD in my car stereo and for my surprise I couldn't find almost any Symphonic traces, it's true that EL&P have certain influence in them (Almost every Prog band in 1973 has something of the Symphonic pioneers), but this influence is limited to the aggressiveness of their sound and use of keyboards, because the massive distorted guitar and the URIAH HEEP and DEEP PURPLE sound, proves they are clearly a Heavy Prog band with some Psych inheritance.

Immediately discussed with my team and we asked the Heavy Prog guys to accept them (Something they did almost instantly), so now the band is where they belong for fans of the heavier side of Prog to discover a group of musicians that present a hard and interesting style that other wise would still be lumped with Symphonic bands where very few will ever notice them.

So now is the tie for the first review.

The album is opened by With a Sweet Whistle to my Ears, a track that starts with an EL&P sound that soon fades behind the power of distorted guitars and an organ that is clearly influenced by the strength of Ken Hensley. In this opening song, COUNTRY LANE blends influences and moods, from (as I said before) EL&P to URIAH HEEP and touch of BEATLES with a Baroque edge product of the Hammond organ. The vocals by Raymond Amey are heavy but at the same time clear, reminding me a bit of David Byron but without the drama. Strong opener.

It's Only Your Memory Playing Just The thought Of A First Love is quite different, from the first notes we notice a strong Psychedelic influence but again morphs into some sort of Power Ballad with extremely elaborate timing and radical changes. Maybe too short, but when all the ideas are developed in a couple minutes, you don't really need more time.

Substratum is a 1:46 minutes interlude in which for the first time the band tries to do an elaborate vocal work, at a first listen they seem to be out of key, but after a few seconds I noticed they were recreating that mysterious sound that URIAH HEEP created. Almost immediately is the turn for In the Morning Sun, a song that moves from fluid and soft to extremely heavy and frantic, some sort of Proto Metal blended with melodic Prog.

Good Old Time is just a joke, after a bizarre introduction they start playing a 12 bar tune with jazz-blues harmony,a lot of saloon piano and funny voices, not to be taken seriously but still some fun.

Song to Ivan marks a radical change, unlike the previous tracks they stay more in the Symphonic Prog realm without leaving totally behind their Heavy nature, the keys, drums and bass interplay is fantastic. The Hammond solo around the fourth minute followed by a powerful guitar is breathtaking. Reminds me a bit of Jon Lord..... in my opinion the best song from the album, and it has my name :)

Letter to a Friend and Captain Bloom are two sides of the same coin, well developed songs linked by a common concept and even when the second one is more melodic, both tracks are incredibly fluid but not exempt of radical changes.

The album ends with the short Lilliput's Safari another high point of the alum, after a beautiful piano intro the band hits us with all they have in the most heavy mood, somehow like a mixture of SLADE, GRAND FUNK RAILROAD and URIAH HEEP, great closer.

It's hard not to feel the need to rate "Substratum" with four stars or more, being that the sound is reminiscent of my youth and sometimes nostalgia can cloud the objectivity a reviewer must have. So after leaving this sweet memories brought by COUNTRY LANE, I will say that the album is very good but doesn't reach the status of masterpiece or essential addition, so I will go with 3 stars that should be 3.5 if our system allowed this.

Highly recommended for Heavy Prog fans and people who grew with bands like DEEP PURPLE and URIAH HEEP.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 3/5 |

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