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Diagonal Diagonal album cover
4.06 | 245 ratings | 21 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Semi Permeable Men-Brain (10:54)
2. Child of the Thunder-Cloud (8:49)
3. Deathwatch (7:18)
4. Cannon Misfire (5:32)
5. Pact (14:00)

Total Time 46:33

Line-up / Musicians

- Alex Crispin / lead vocals, piano, organ, synth, percussion
- Nicholas Richards / guitar, percussion
- David Wileman / electric & acoustic guitars, percussion
- Ross Hossack / Mellotron, synth
- Nicholas Whittaker / alto saxophone, clarinet, flute, recorder, backing vocals
- Daniel Pomlett / bass
- Luke Foster / drums, percussion

- Liam Watson / synth
- Robbie Wilson / trumpet

Releases information

Artwork: Alex Crispin and Nicholas Richards

LP Rise Above Records ‎- RISELP121 (2008, UK)

CD Rise Above Records ‎- RISECD121 (2008, UK) New cover art
CD Candlelight Records USA ‎- CDL432CD (2008, US)

Thanks to Rivertree for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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DIAGONAL Diagonal ratings distribution

(245 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

DIAGONAL Diagonal reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
4 stars Although this album is from 2008 DIAGONAL offer an intriguing trip through 1970s prog rock. Even on band photos they look like coming from this era. So it seems like natural when people are irritated and think they listen to something like a re-issue of an elder effort. DIAGONAL are a multifaceted seven-headed band from Brighton/UK. Not a major aspect here but all members have vocal skills without exception. For a debut it all sounds performed with ease - amazingly varied, flexible - even experimental in parts. Additionally the jamming component does not take a backseat here.

They start with Semi-Permeable Men-Brain - a challenge really showing dizzying transformations, twists and turns. Avantgarde tinged as for the beginning (a dazzling guitar and organ interaction) the song soon is thrilled with a jazz rock respectively canterbury styled grooving behaviour. Moreover we have a drum solo integrated ... admittedly short though. DIAGONAL is acting like a collective - nevertheless - every member gets the chance to make use of his abilities.

Child Of The Thundercloud evolves per symphonic impressions mainly - a playful piano/clarinette collaboration first. When the band gets into motion then this remembers me at Renaissance - charming vocals. Okay, they don't have Annie Haslam with them - but it's really nice - especially when they later fade into a heavier grooving improv part. The shorter Deathwatch appears in a rather solemn mood. Electric piano and modified vocals quasi synchronizing with a psychedelia touch, crimsonesque guitars are added later on, backed by stoic repetitive drums.

As most of fusion related stuff Cannon Missfire is instrumental as well and provided with a higher proportion of jamming. Pact as the album's epic track subsequently offers multiple impressions. Ceremonial keyboards for the background, a short jazzy interlude here and a longer relaxed ambient part there. This is presented that self-evident, cool - as if they were playing together for thirty years or so! A fine album which picks up the spirit of the glorious 70s. Obviously DIAGONAL have listened to a lot of stuff from that period and are keen on reinterpreting this in a special eclectic manner. Now I'm wondering what will follow ...

Review by avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end?"

But they did.

Or did they?

Well, according to the British band Diagonal, those days may have passed but that's no reason not to try to revive them, or in fact re-live them. And they do it so well, that their version of past days seems better than the original.

Released on Rise Above Records, which aside from metal bands, has also several bands in their lineup that recreate the magic of past days of glory, such as Circulus, Litmus, Blood Ceremony, Astra and Diagonal.

Diagonal, from Brighton that sits on the shores of southern England on the channel, are a 7 members band, bent on recreating sounds long gone and even in the booklet of their self-titled album they look like 70s' rock musicians, giving the impression that they are either a long lost band only recently discovered or rather time travelers or in fact just die hard enthusiasts of another age.

What about their music? Ah, well to me it's pure bliss; a truly wonderful complex vintage sounding poignant psychedelic and heavy form of rock. Their music is a well-crafted piece of multi-section songs that benefit from a wide array of instruments played, rich sound, dominant spacey sounding vocals, great soloing by different instruments (saxophones, drums, guitar, keyboards). The melodies are enchanting, gripping me from start to end, intertwined with passionate playing and intricate song structures. There are influences from late 60s' "psychedelia" as well as King Crimson, Genesis, Deep Purple and so on. Their music shift from heavy pounding rhythms and riffs to lush and sweet keyboard strokes that envelops you in a silk wrapped musical heaven. The first song alone, Semi Permeable Men-Brain, is a tour-de-force by the band, showing all the ammunition in their sleeves, all their influences and all their musical abilities. Everything flows superbly, each note in place and various moods and atmospheres covered to create a triumphant musical piece. There is ten an uninterrupted connection to Child Of The Thundercloud by means of a piano playing softly, a theme which is then developed and added to by the rest of the band to an emotional peak at the middle of the song, where another twist occurs at the end of which a return to the original theme takes place. The driving rhythm of this segment is hard to resist; the beat itself is well embellished with the vocals and guitar, creating a wonderful insane and psychedelic segment. With Deathwatch the intensity levels are brought down to calmer waters, though it does go up a notch in the middle with the full band joining in and the magical musical wrapping with keyboards occurs. We then proceed to Cannon Misfire which starts in a way that fits its name; blistering guitar and drumming and then a saxophone joining in. This instrumental piece, the shortest one on the album, is a wild ride with superb bass lines that are brought to the front of the mix. This track might seem more of a jam like piece as some of the instruments seem to wonder more freely (particularly in the middle) but it is a focused composition with great musicianship and a very intense one at that. To seal the album comes the fourteen minutes song, with great organ playing opening it in an intense manner and later serving as the underlying layer. With some nice bluesy and jazzy touches, this song is another multi-section piece that covers several styles and emotional grounds and is a fine closer of this dynamic and powerful album.

Once the music stops, be careful from the dizziness that accompanies the listener as he is transported back to the present.

Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars 4.5 stars. I completely agree with Avestin, this is "pure bliss". I need to thank my Australian buddy Tom Ozric for recommending this album to me as well. This really is like a trip back in time as DIAGONAL offer up a feast of vintage keyboards and spaced out soundscapes. The mellotron in particular is so well done. The only band I really thought while listening to this was the equally retro ASTRA who I believe is even on the same record label. DIAGONAL aren't as Psychedelic though,and offer up some variety which is why they're in the Eclectic genre.

"Semi Permeable Men-Brain" is the almost 11 minute opening track. Lots of atmosphere as guitar is picked quickly. Organ comes in with some outbursts of power that come and go. Amazing sound before 2 1/2 minutes when the mellotron washes in with those vocals I like.The organ and guitar sound great as well. Check out the guitar before 8 1/2 minutes as they jam right to the end. "Child Of The Thunder-Cloud" opens with piano in a pastoral setting. The piano picks up then a full sound arrives before 2 1/2 minutes. Vocals 3 minutes in as the mellotron floods in. Nice. A calm before 5 minutes with some atmosphere. This is great ! It kicks back in around 6 minutes. "Deathwatch" opens with vocals and some sparse keys. Light drums join in but the focus is on the vocals.This is an excellent laid back tune until it gets fuller around 4 1/2 minutes with some outstanding guitar.

"Cannon Misfire" opens with some nice bass before the metalic sounding guitar comes in.The tone of the guitar here reminds me of a TIME MACHINE song. Sax comes in replacing the guitar but not for long as the guitar returns around 1 1/2 minutes. The bass is prominant again like on the intro as drums pound. You can hear the guitar screaming in the background. There's that metalic guitar again 5 minutes in to the end. "Pact" is the 14 minute closer. It opens with organ as a full sound kicks in quickly. Mellotron a minute in as it settles. Vocals follow. A jazzy break before 5 1/2 minutes is short lived as mellotron returns. Next up is an extended spacey calm. Mellotron joins in before 10 1/2 minutes.This sounds so heavenly.The spacey calm ends after 11 minutes as the organ comes in followed by guitar and drums. It settles to end our trip.

This may recall the late sixties and early seventies but it's so fresh and well done. Highly recommended.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Diagonal sounds like a lost gem from 69. Full of psychedelic heavy rock influences and early progressive rock. Next to the superb songwriting and inspired musicianship, the band really surprises me with having such a vintage vibe while never sounding like any particular band. Nevertheless, I'll throw a few dozen band names at you in the hope of convincing you why they might appeal to you.

A first influence that comes to mind is heavy psychedelic rock from Iron Butterfly and early Deep Purple. Especially the lead vocalist Alex Crispin with his warm soulful voice seems to come right out of the 60's. The music is decidedly British, with those typical dreamy melancholic melodies and harmonies. So obviously the 60's sound of Pink Floyd must be added to the list.

The songwriting mixes jamming with accomplished progressive song structures that bring Van Der Graaf and Gentle Giant back to mind. Saxophones, organs, hammonds and mellotron complement the solid & swinging rhythm section that fires these long songs forward. The spirit of the Doors is never far away neither.

I can't find any fault with any of the 5 tracks here. Each of them brings something else to the table: the jazz-rock of Colosseum on Semi Permeable Men-Brain, lighthouse keeper plagues on Child of the Thiunder-Cloud, warm melancholia on Deathwatch, irresistible bass grooves on Cannon Misfire and stirring blues on Pact.

For some reason this album hasn't caught the attention of Astra's Weirding, an album with a comparable vintage sound. Diagonal resides entirely in 1969 spheres and they sound perfectly at easy there. A masterpiece of songwriting, musicianship, intensity and love for music. My pick for review #900!

Review by Menswear
5 stars The march of the dinosaurs.

7 persons, wow. We don't see that everyday; big band indeed. In my book, they are officialy ranked with the great-band-kicking-it-old-school like Wobbler, Sinkadus, Beardfish, Willowglass and Black Bonzo. Happy happy joy joy.

Their talent is undiscutably there; boy they ressurect King Crimson and Pink Floyd from their ashes and add lots of Gnidrolog for a bombastic jolly time! They are VERY intense: the drum is especially tasty (jazz influenced) with tons of loud cymbals and mind-bogglin' snare-ride-kick interaction I haven't heard since Tom Morello of the Brubeck Quartet.

Mellotron sounds like it's Fripp itself playing it (oh the sound of that thing!), with very nice (not too loud) organ and the vocals are just what it takes; not exceptionnal, a bit in the back with a tone that reminds the great lost gems of the 70's. This could easily be an old, dusty Holland band that fell into the cracks of the ingrate 70's due to to it's complexity.

Simple yet satisfying, eerie and atmospheric yet eardrum splitting at times, it sports one of the great covers of the last's tacky on first glance, but you have to unfold the booklet to appreciate!

Congratulations guys, I like it so much I secretly wish it came out of MY brain.

A real modern masterpiece.

Review by progaeopteryx
4 stars Diagonal's debut caught my attention after reading some very positive reviews and I have to agree with the other reviewers here that this one seems like it was transported in time from 1970 to the present. Doctor Who, thank you!

Diagonal is made up of seven members. And check out the instruments each plays above. Quite a skilled group! And the variety! Spaced-out moments, psychedelic rock, weird and changing time signatures, Hammond organ chugging along, complicated bass riffs, glorious Mellotron. I hear influences from all that was great in the 1970s including the likes of Gentle Giant, Van der Graaf Generator, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, King Crimson, The Doors, Caravan, and early Camel. Highlights are the last two tracks, especially the Mellotron-soaked last track.

In the same league as Astra's The Weirding. Easily worth four stars.

Review by Andy Webb
5 stars Eclectic: selecting or choosing from various sources. I'd say so.

Diagonal is my favorite 70s psych band that isn't from the 70s. 30 years after psychedelic rock really took its roots, Diagonal has grown into a magnificent 7 piece of talented musicians who care about what they are doing. But, made obvious by the band's genre, Floyd and Jefferson Airplane aren't the only things they listen to before jamming. Hints of everything good about music pops up in their songs: prog metal, symphonic stuff, ambient passages, odd instruments and odd time signatures, lengthy instrumental sections, generally good melodies, and so, so, so much more. The whole album is a blast from the past of dusty old styles, from odd combo with distorted guitars and organ with a hint of sax, to wind, bass and synthesizer solos. Their singer is sub-par, but not only can you get used to his accented vocals and learn to like them, but the band slips his voice in only at strategic points between lengthy and amazing instrumental sections. What a good album.

Semi-Permeable Men-Brain opens with a slowly crescendoing organ-guitar intro, a creative section that really sets you up for the dynamic song. A more metallic section ensues, before breaking into a trisector with keys, sax, and guitar, before vocals enter. The melody is nice, as is the rhythm of the entire track. After the melody ends, yet another fantastic instrumental section opens, changing the dynamic of the song yet again. The whole track has a catchy under-melody, one of those catchy kind of jazz melodies that doesn't seem to leave your head. After even more amazing soloing, a catchy Yes-sounding instrumental sections opens with a Wakeman-like synth solo. These guys know when to rip out a fantastic opener. Overall, this track is easily one of the better ones, and it really opens the album up. With this band, you have to expect the unexpected.

Child of the Thunder Cloud is a great track, but in the beginning. This softer track takes a while to open up and really chug along. A quiet piano piece slowly (very very slowly) builds up to what will become an amazing guitar riff. It takes nearly 3 minutes, but its like an antique car: it takes a while to start but once it does you don't want it to stop riding around town. Crushingly great riffs, some nice melody, fantastic rhythm, it's just a good song.

Deathwatch is a second song that takes a little while to start up. The melody that it begins with really isn't very good, but it ends in less than a minute. A slow jazz sax solo opens up again, and once the song starts to pick up a little, the singing seems to improve. That accented, odd sounded voice seems to really have something really unique that sticks. Some nice Genesis-inspired rhythms can be heard throughout the song. The long instrumental section after the singer finished is very melodic and beautiful. The song continues this album's great "track" record. (haha)

Cannon Misfire is probably the best track on the record. The instrumental track has some of the most amazing riffing and musical writing ability I've ever heard. I'm not saying that the guys are shredding their guitars to ribbons or anything at all, just some of the stuff those musicians play is so damn creative I don't even have anything to say. It's like they sat down and combined Van Der Graaf Generator, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Opeth, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and every other classic and fantastic band and produced a song so magnanimous in it's spectacularity that I just had to create an adjective to describe it. What a great song. I would have bought this album if only this song was on it.

Pact, the longest song on the album, at 14:00, is also one of the better tracks. It opens with a catchy organ-guitar duo, and breaks into a sweeping symphonic bit that breaks into a more jazz-fusion like riff. It's a great intro. After some great melody section, an absolutely fantastic ambient section opens and amazes me for about 3 or 4 minutes before prominent guitar work opens up. The ambient section is extremely relaxing and serene. The guitar re- entry is very calm and really brings you out of a spectacular trance of beauty that Diagonal has layered for your listening enjoyment.

ALBUM OVERALL: What a great album. The recording quality isn't top notch, but it gives the music a more organic sound. The vocals are sub-par but not only can you learn to like his accented, odd pitched voice, he is used sparingly and with great effect. The instrumental sections are creative, fun, beautiful, and just genius all together. If you see this album anywhere, get it. And get it quickly.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a throwback! To think that youngsters of the 21st Century would want to so perfectly, so beautifully, so diligently recreate the sounds of the early days of what we now call 'progressive rock' is, to me, mystifying yet marvelous. It only took me three listens through to truly fully appreciate and absolutely love this album.

In "Semi-Permeable Membrane" I hear PROCUL HARUM, PINK FLOYD, HAWKWIND, even ARGENT, TRAFFIC, BLIND FAITH, BALCK SABBATH, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, CHICAGO, SANTANA, CARAVAN, THE MOODY BLUES, and so much more! And yet, it is all its own--totally new and fresh! Amazing song/jam! 10/10

"Child of the Thundercloud" starts off with clarinet and piano--taking us into a completely different realm of music--taking on a very jazz fusion feel as the rhythm section joins in. But then vocals give it a very definite TRAFFIC/MOODY BLUES (with a little ELP) feel. Then, halfway through we're taken to a very spacious Nursery Cryme-like section, which then turns into the 'thunderstorm' that YES and CAMEL never did (but probably wish they had). Then the seven minute mark yields yet another shift--to a kind of NEKTAR/GONG-like outro. Wow! 10/10

"Deathwatch" starts like a FLEET FOXES song before rhythm section and saxophone join in. A very spacey, sparsely instrumented section ensues which allows the group to showcase its vocal talents. Then at the four minute mark a slow jazzy Canterbury-like song builds until is devolves in a KING CRIMSON-esque kind of way. Awesome. 9/10

"Cannon Misfire" is my least favorite song on the album, but is still quite impressive both compositionally and instrumentally. Sounds a bit like BILLY COBHAM, TONY LEVIN, DAEVID ALLEN, ROD ARGENT and MEL COLLINS jamming together. 7/10

"Pact" is the album's longest song at 14 minutes. It starts out with a bit of a feel as if TONY BANKS and ROYE ALBRIGHTON helped out on ELP's Tarkus--at least until the JIMI HENDRIX/STEPHEN STILLS vocals come it. Then PROCUL HARUM becomes the dominant influence/model. At 6:15 the music disappears leaving a very familiar ("Close to the Edge") space filled only with a single oscillating organ chord which is played over by a flutish-sounding synth(?) and, later, by some incidental vibes and percussives.This lasts for over 5 minutes before the song climbs back out of the grave with some THIN LIZZY like dual guitar marching. A good song. It just has a little too much 'drag' for me and not enough of the previous songs' mood, tempo, and stylistic changes to keep me mesmerized. 8/10

DIAGONAL is definitely a band to watch. I have a feeling they could do just about anything they wanted to and excel. IMHO, this album is one for the ages: a masterpiece.

Review by progrules
3 stars Maybe I should have stayed away from this album in the end. I mean eclectic prog and progrules is not a succesful combination. Well, there is some eclectic prog I can appreciate and in fact Diagonal comes pretty close after all but still this is far away from my preferred styles of prog.

Where the references are concerned I totally agree with progaeopteryx and several other reviewers when they mention Deep Purple (in their 60's era), King Crimson and Pink Floyd (also early days). And yes, even a hint of Camel's debut is detecable indeed. Mellotron all over the place and variation is another feature of this debut by Diagonal.

But what I find somewhat disturbing is where neoprogbands and also symphonic progbands are often bashed because of their retrograde and their being derivative suddenly Diagonal is praised for the exact same thing. Ok, maybe the whole thing is done in a fresh and quite original way but it's still sheer retro what I'm hearing and it's also pretty derivative. So I will have to distract points for this fact if we are to be consistent. And in the end this album isn't really my cup of tea anyway. Let's say 2,5 stars subjectively and at least 3,5 objectively result in a downright 3 stars as far as I'm concerned. Great album but not for me.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Allow me to be frank with you from the start, I don't understand the hype surrounding this highly praised full-length album by Diagonal.

This 2008 release has been praised by pretty much everyone so far, which is the reason why I didn't waste my time and got this album in early 2010. Since then, this album have received around 10 sporadic revisits where I, each and every time, wanted to believe that there was a clear growth in the material. We're now approaching the end of May 2011 and I'll just have to admit my failure of comprehending the magic of this record.

It's not that the band members are necessarily bad at what they're doing. Writing original vintage Prog music is something that I wish that many more would actually attempt wholeheartedly, without relying on all those old clichés. My main concern comes from the fact that this music feels bland and never reaches either the highest heights nor the lowest lows. This might just be the reason why so many actually enjoy this record as much as they do, combined with some atmospheric jams added to the mix. Most of these compositions drag on for way too long and have little to offer in return for the invested time. The biggest sinner in this category is the 7+ minute atmospheric interlude called Deathwatch. I call it an interlude since the composition really goes nowhere and therefore shouldn't have even been longer than 2-3 minutes!

Semi Permeable Men-Brain and Pact feature some memorable arrangements but I neither enjoy the very laid back vocals nor the extremely long jam sections. At times, I almost get the feeling that the band had around 20-25 minutes worth of album material which they decided to stretch out into this 45+ minute record. The only truly spectacular moment here is the 5+ minute instrumental Cannon Misfire, which returns me to the great energy that I experienced on Heavy Language, from the band's short two-track debut release.

One might assume that I really hate this record after reading this review, but this is not true. I might be a bit more demanding on this material considering that it's such a highly praised recording, which I expected a lot more out of. I simply find it lacking on a broader level in order to award it anything higher than the good, but non-essential rating.

***** star songs: Cannon Misfire (5:32)

**** star songs: Semi Permeable Men-Brain (10:54) Child Of The Thunder-Cloud (8:49) Pact (14:00)

*** star songs: Deathwatch (7:18)

Review by Warthur
3 stars Diagonal play a style of nostalgic progressive rock which, despite benefiting a little from modern recording standards, is aesthetically informed by the underground prog bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s - a time when the interweaving of early prog and the countercultural underground was still in place and classical music influences hadn't yet begun to outweigh the psychedelic roots of prog.

At points they are really quite excellent at recapturing the aesthetic of that period - just listen to that organ sound at the start of the opening track for a great example - but I feel the album is dragged down a little precisely because of the band's commitment to authentically vintage- sounding material: by not allowing themselves to learn the lessons of hindsight the band end up repeating mistakes of the era, such as allowing an uninspired drum solo to go on for way too long. In essence, the band spend a little too much time reinventing the wheel and not enough time trimming away the fat for this debut to be anything other than a pleasant but inessential nostalgia trip.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Seven-piece outfit from Brighton, UK with all members being multi-instrumentalists.These were David Wileman, Nicholas Whittaker, Nicholas Richards, Ross Hossack, Luke Foster, Alex Crispin and Daniel Pomlett, with Crispin being the lead singer but all members contribute on vocals.They recorded their debut at Toe Rag Studios in London and the album succeeded both CD and vinyl issues on Rise Above Records.

The aim of Diagonal was to interpret the Classic Prog years from the 70's and actually you will hardly believe the album was recorded that recently.The extremely vintage opener ''Semi-Permiable menbrain'' borrows the best moments of KING CRIMSON, dominated by heavy guitar workouts and powerful Mellotron washes, and mixes them with a certain Jazz-Rock attitude ala COLOSSEUM with pounding organs and jazzy solos.A great opener indeed, followed by the long intro of ''Child of the thundercloud'', which becomes fully KING CRIMSON-oriented in the process with beautiful vocals in the vein of GREG LAKE and an energetic ending section with nice breaks and a very good piano performance.''Deathwatch'' lies somewhere between CRESSIDA (in the vocal lines) and KING CRIMSON/VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR (in the instrumental parts), even having slight Post Rock moves, led by light saxes, mellow electric piano and atmospheric guitar lines.With ''Cannon misfire'' seems like ROBERT FRIPP meets on stage with DAVID JACKSON in a very complex track with inredible guitat runs, frenetic bass lines and psychedelic saxes, simply stunning!''Fact'' is a beautiful closer, opening with a great guitar/organ vibe, but soon being transformed in an early-KING CRIMSON/CRESSIDA-inspired piece with orchestral Mellotrons and crying vocal lines.The only stretched point of the album comes after.About six minutes of ethereal, Lounge soundscapes of a Post Rock approach with synths and Mellotron, which is very atmospheric but maybe a bit too long.

Definitely one of the best recent Retro Prog albums.Highly nostalgic, characterized by impressive performances, excellent instrumental skills and tight compositions.Highly recommended.

Review by Neu!mann
4 stars You'd never guess after hearing the first Diagonal album that it was recorded in 2008: the songwriting, arrangements, instrumentation, performance and production all combine to flawlessly recreate not just the sound but the spirit of the early 1970s.

They aren't, of course, the only group to have been directly influenced by the Progressive Rock stars of a bygone era. But there's a difference in their approach that sets Diagonal apart from other modern proggers living in the past. Instead of stealing ideas and sometimes actual riffs from Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant et al, these guys resemble one of those obscure second-tier bands who labored in the wake of their better-remembered role models, and whose only recorded LP is now a rare collector's item.

The results go beyond homage to become an act of witness, by young musicians with a functioning time machine stashed somewhere in their Brighton studio. From the distorted vintage organ chords in the album opener "Semi-Permeable Menbrain" (an awesome title, by the way) to the Mellotron-induced nirvana of the closing 14-minute "Pact", there isn't a single aesthetic misstep throughout its vinyl-era 46-minute length.

The occasional lead vocals, gently bathed in period reverb, are equally nostalgic: unquiet ghosts from an undead past. But the album is more than just a convincing anachronism; the music itself would be memorable even without the analog cosmetics. Listen to how the song "Child of the Thunder-Cloud" rises gradually from an acoustic piano and clarinet intro to a thrilling freak-out finale. Or the way in which the drifting Mellotron cloud in "Pact" finally condenses into a rousing twin-guitar anthem, before closing on a moment of unexpected grace.

Classic, but modern; heavy, yet delicate: this was a band living the dream firsthand, not just visiting in retrospect.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nº 247

Diagonal is an English progressive rock band that appeared in 2008. The band is based in Brighton and consists of seven piece musicians who include two keyboardists, two guitarists and a reeds player amongst their number. The band's style tends less towards the more symphonic side of the genre popularised by the likes of Genesis and Yes, and more towards the more experimental, avant-garde, jazz-flavoured side. Still, the band manages to keep things pretty accessible at all times. The main influences appear to be Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, whilst heads are nodded to a variety of bands from the Canterbury scene, such as The Soft Machine. There's also a spacey, psychedelic flavour to some of the tracks, which recalls the Syd Barrett's era in Pink Floyd, particularly in the build up of the songs.

Diagonal is, perhaps, the first modern U.K. band that I know which truly capture the essence, atmosphere, and sound of the original progressive rock movement from the 70's, in England. Of course, many other groups before have come along and tried their hand at generating the sound of Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Renaissance, King Crimson, and Van der Graaf Generator, in one way or another. And while all of those groups are worthy of imitation, they only represented a fraction of the original U.K. movement. Of course, they were the ones that made the big time, so it's understandable that they had attracted more admirers than all the others, really.

But, in reality, despite Diagonal has clearly absorbed many of those influences, unlike many of those bands, they only have absorbed that influence, not trying to copy it. And so, with this debut album of Diagonal you can get an entirely new album within an old familiar context. And, because the band has clearly studied this era in depth, not to mention the incorporation of the period instrumentation, the mellotron, the Hammond organ, the Fender Rhodes piano, the fuzz bass/guitar and the saxophone, they were able to create an extract of the genre, a mix of many of the genres of prog with a good taste. In what concerns to me, Diagonal have created a great and interesting retro progressive rock album.

So, 'Diagonal' is the eponymous debut studio album of Diagonal and was released in 2008. The line up on the album is Alex Crispin (lead vocals, piano, organ, synthesizers and percussion), Nicholas Richards (guitar and percussion), David Wileman (electric and acoustic guitars and percussion), Ross Hossack (mellotron and synthesizers), Nichlas Whittaker (backing vocals, alto saxophone, clarinet, flute and recorder), Daniel Pomlett (bass) and Luke Foster (drums and percussion).

'Diagonal' has five tracks. The first track 'Semi Permeable Men-Brain' is a mind blowingly intense and heavy piece with killer guitar work, and some great use of wind instruments and mellotron. The vocals are in The Moody Blues' style, although the vocals aren't as strong as The Moodies. There's a spacey, psychedelic flavour on this track which recalls Pink Floyd in the Barrett's era. The second track 'Child Of The Thunder-Cloud' is a mellower track that starts off rather mellow, with piano, but I really love those aggressive passages that kick in. The atmosphere builds into the jazz prog territory with some psychedelic effects. The vocals remind me of Pink Floyd. The third track 'Deathwatch' is also a mellower piece, a Canterbury influenced piece of music, with electric piano and some mellow vocal passages. This is a very beautiful track with some inspired rhythms. It has a long instrumental section which is very melodic and beautiful. The fourth track 'Cannon Misfire' is an instrumental piece with lots of riffs. It has some great guitar work by both guitarists and an amazing bass line. It's the track that can provide a higher proportion of jamming. This is a track with great musicianship and is very intense. The fifth track 'Pact' has a jazzy feel, then an ambient passage that reminds me of something that Vangelis would do, or perhaps Brian Eno. It's a track with great melody in a fantastic ambient style. Covering several styles and with some nice bluesy and jazzy touches. It's a nice way to close this album.

Conclusion: Diagonal is a vintage 70's prog act like The Soft Machine, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Camel, as their music is dripping in nice and lush keyboard soundscapes, jazzy sax melodies, and some adventurous space rock explorations. Diagonal have certainly come up with an exciting and quite challenging listen here with their debut album space rock, prog, jazz-fusion, and Canterbury fans will most certainly want to investigate this one. The album looks amazingly 'grown-up', even if not every arrangement is completely convincing and sometimes one or the other transition bumps a bit. But, overall the tensions, Diagonal plays skillfully with quieter and louder passages and has successful melodies on board. And, with the whole retro attitude, it goes without saying that the album is about a classic LP length long. This is an album to be held up as an example of how to do it right. If you're a student of the genre, then let Diagonal be your teacher. This is prog rock you would have thought disappeared after the 70's, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars One of the modern wonders of retro prog, DIAGONAL got its start in Brighton, UK and has successfully recaptured that transition prog sound that existed roughly from 1969-71 when the 1960s psychedelic rock scene was undergoing an extreme makeover into the hard hitting heavy with the complexities full-on prog rock that peaked around 1972-73. While not one of the original revivers of all things 70s such as bands like Anglagard and Sinkadus that captured the first wave of revival prog, DIAGNONAL formed in 2006 and did its homework well before unleashing its self-titled debut onto the world in 2008.

For a retro band, DIAGONAL had a huge lineup with seven members and two guest musicians. On board were two guitarists, two keyboardists, a bassist, a percussionist and another member dedicated to wind instruments including the alto sax, clarinet, flute and recorder. Seems like everyone played some sort of additional percussion on this one and there were two guests who added even more synth sounds and trumpet. While retro prog of the 70s where a band basically gets a PHD in some particular time and place of music was nothing new, DIAGONAL are considered one of the best examples of taking a given sound that had all but been jettisoned and reformatted for the modern world.

As far as influences are involved, DIAGONAL was all over the map with this debut and it's impossible to call this band a clone in any way. Rather this band took all the best of the aforementioned era and threw it all together in a way that should have organically unfolded in the old days but for whatever reason was squashed in favor of rapidly changing musical tastes. While bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, ELP and Jethro Tull were hugely popular around 1971, they were by no means the only game in town and the prog scene was much larger and diverse and that's where DIAGONAL shine on their debut album, namely by taking the larger prog scene and melding it into one.

Not only can you hear the psychedelic years of Syd Barrett Pink Floyd in the mix but Yes inspired guitar workouts, frenetic Van der Graaf Generator freakery, Canterbury warmth a la Caravan and Soft Machine and the pastoral symphonic atmospheres of bands like Genesis and King Crimson's "Islands." The organ runs can bring bands like Atomic Rooster to mind and it all sounds even more authentic given the instrumentation utilizes the very same technology that was available around the 1971 timeline. In addition to some of the bigwigs of the era, lesser known influences include bands like Cressida, T2, Focus, Beggar's Opera, Traffic and more.

This DIAGONAL debut clocks in at an authentic vinyl LP running time which in this case is 46 1/2 minutes and features five strong tracks that corral all the tones, textures, timbres and songwriting techniques of the 1970-71 and offer extended variations that will please any modern connoisseurs of contemporary progressive music. Tracks range from the everything but the kitchen sink opener "Semi Permeable Men-Brain" which is like a smorgasbord of early British prog sounds to the overtly technical virtuosic performances of the fiery "Cannon Misfire." The closing track "Pact," the longest track on board that sprawls on for fourteen minutes delivers a trip into space with a purely ambient journey half way through. The tracks are all distinct from each other and even Alex Crispin's vocals sound like one of those Cressida type bands from those days.

I certainly have issues with many of the retro prog bands that have flooded the market since this album was released. Some are so authentically retro that they basically sound like clones. Such is not the case with DIAGONAL. This band did its homework for the basic framework and limitations that adhered to the timeline but as far as creativity is concerned this band crafted a bonafide beauty of an album that transcends any tagging or mere classification. This is just simply a beautiful album to absorb and ponder the possibility that this indeed was an archival release from 1971-ish. Perhaps the only issue i have is that Crispin's vocals aren't to my taste. I would have preferred a much more dynamic and charismatic style closer to either Jon Anderson or Peter Hammill but given a large chunk of this album is instrumental meandering, it doesn't really get any better in that department.

Latest members reviews

4 stars This is definitely an album you will want to add to your collection of contemporary retro prog. It captures the vibes of many eclectic prog bands of the from the late 60's early 70's era, such as: ELP, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, etc. Does it push open a new frontier for the genre? The short answ ... (read more)

Report this review (#2788180) | Posted by | Monday, September 5, 2022 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The young lads from Brighton present a strong 70's prog inspired record proving that they have listened to enough works before creating theirs. There are pretty imaginative instrumental moments with various including brass section but mainly, it's keyboards and guitar playing that set the times ... (read more)

Report this review (#2698421) | Posted by sgtpepper | Tuesday, March 8, 2022 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What an extraordinary surprise that is touched by the magical hands of 70s. Every single note that flows by, reminds you the gem of those amazing years. The recording, the tone of the drums and the even the sound of guitar are adorned by the contemporary insight of today's progressive rock standarts ... (read more)

Report this review (#356046) | Posted by omardiyejon | Friday, December 17, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I really like this album. There's not a weak track on it. The overall musicianship is top-notch and they've added just enough craziness to their composition. In some places the bass makes me think of Les Claypool (Primus) especially in the song Cannon Misfire. And the drum solo at the end of ... (read more)

Report this review (#306009) | Posted by phillihp | Thursday, October 21, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I really like progarchives and use it frequently to dig for new/old tunes.But when I saw that this album by Diagonal only had two reviews and it had no major love from the it's members of the site I decided to join. It is a serious crime that this AMAZING album is not in at least one of the top ... (read more)

Report this review (#223503) | Posted by moonknight | Saturday, June 27, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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