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Diagonal - The Second Mechanism CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.80 | 141 ratings

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4 stars After shedding two members and allegedly scrapping almost an album's worth of new material, Brighton's Diagonal have finally returned. A full four years have passed since the group released their outstanding self- titled debut of 2008, an album informed by the epic art-rock dynamics of King Crimson, the fusion-toned force of Return To Forever, Van Graaf Generator's darkly-wrought heart and surely one of the contenders for this current century's great modern prog records. The fact that Diagonal's original seven-man line-up were all barely out of their teens made the achievement all the more spectacular. However, four years is a long time in rock. For a while it seemed like the youthful outfit would go the same way as so many of their prog-rock cohorts past-and-present by making a great album before subsequently and inexplicably disappearing into the big dark hole of rock 'n' roll obscurity, home to the likes of Arcadium, Grannie, Bakerloo, Maxophone, The Norman Haines Band and many, many others. Thankfully, though, Diagonal's unique sound has proved simply too impressive to squander. The recently-ended four-year hiatus has seen changes, both in personel and in the group's overall style, yet for the most the five-pieces difficult-second-album 'The Second Mechanism' proves a welcome return, even if it doesn't quite live up to the sky high expectations set by its predecessor. Here, we have a darker-sounding record, one with heavier beats, less Crimson-influenced exotica and an electronic edge that lends 'The Second Mechanism' a more immediate feel. The production, too, seems more streamlined, with the abrasive complexity that underpinned 'Diagonal' replaced by a fuzzy ambience that brings to mind such post-rock acts as Battles and Russian Circles. Opening track 'Voyage / Paralysis' is a prime example of this new approach, the warped beats and droning keyboards hitching a futuristic quality onto the group's richly-textured art-prog mixture. The album's key piece, however, proves to be its longest. Coming in at just over the ten-minute mark, the full-blown, psychedelic, heavy jazz-drone odyssey 'Hulks' proves to be the moment worth waiting four years for. This is Diagonal in full, glorious flow, weaving a dense tapestry of grilled guitars, skittering beats and dancing synthesizers into a brooding and cinematic multi-part epic. Occasionally, as found in closer 'Capsizing', 'The Second Mechanism' threatens to slip into murky proto-dance territory, yet the group's decision to polish and update their sound makes for mostly fascinating listening. Its not quite the spectacular experience that is 2008's 'Diagonal', yet it comes close. And at its very best this is a highly-mature and ever impressive statement from one of Britain's outstanding young prog groups. We excitedly await album number three. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
stefro | 4/5 |


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