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Aisles - Beyond Drama CD (album) cover





4.13 | 41 ratings

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5 stars Chile's 21st Century prog stalwarts are back with yet another lineup change. Founding members guitarists Germán Vergara and Rodrigo Sepúlveda are still with the band as is drummer Felipe Candia. 2012 addition Daniel Concha is back on bass as is keyboard player Juan Pablo Gaete (2014), but the band has had to find a new vocalist. Israel Gil has been brought in to try to fill Sebastién Vargara shoes.

This album is actually a collection of individual songs that the band worked on and released as singles, one by one, over the time span of early 2021 through February of 2023.

1. "Fast" (4:38) love the "fade in" fast-strum two chord progression that the song opens with but the mix remains too muted and distant for my likes. When keys and vocals join the rhythm section, it's with a MOTORPSYCHO-like sound and feel. Very cool! (I love Motorpsycho.) Despite its flaws (sound engineering) this is a great, catchy song with lots of impressive (and loveable) subtle nuances (keyboard, bass, and drum flourishes). Great drumming from Felipe Candia. (8.875/10)

2. "Megalomania" (6:25) styled very much like a KARNIVOOL or LEPROUS song (the main melody is practically lifted from the Aussie band's "We Are"--one of my favorite songs of the 2010s), the instrumental palette/soundscape is far too weak and thin to pull it off (as is the voice of lead vocalist Israel Gil), and yet the imitation (borrowing) of the afore- cited Heavy Proggers continues. Still, I do enjoy the slap and percussion styles used on the guitars and bass as well as the drum exhibition around the six-minute mark. (8.75/10)

3. "Thanks to Kafka" (4:18) Pleasant but not very memorable (other than the lyrical line of literary homage). At this point in the album my jury is still out on Israel; here he's impassioned but the vocal isn't mixed well into the mix of the song (it's buried too much in the mix--behind the bass and lead guitar). I do, however, appreciate the lyrical intent. (8.6667/10)

4. "Disobedience" (7:18) I love the set up and rhythmic foundation of this one: fast-moving drums with thoughtful phrasing from the bass and keys with great vocal deliveries. Reminds me of early PAATOS. And the reach for heaviness really works on this one. I love the FIXX-like chords used for the awesome chorus motif. Great tune! Definitely a top three song. (14.25/15)

5. "Time (A Conversation with My Therapist)" (6:40) quite a melodically captivating song. Once in, you're stuck--but it's such a nice, soul-balming place. I think I could stay here forever. (Aisles has always the ability to do that to the listener with their music.) A top three song for me. (9.5/10)

6. "The Plague" (11:06) opening with those delicate, virtuosic guitar notes is so magical--so much of what I think of when I recall Aisles. (Which makes me think that this song may have been carried forward from a long time ago.) I love the atmospheric soundscape established to back Israel's MARCO GLÜHMANN (Sylvan) vocal delivery. As a matter of fact, the whole song to this point has a LOT in common with the music of SYLVAN. The chorus starts out a little blandly but then Israel and Germán (and others) come forward to win the day. Great drumming, keys, and thrumming bass beneath the lead guitar solo in the fith minute. Then begins the echoed guitar chord play that feels signatory to this band. Very powerful use of choral voices in the sixth and ninth minutes (reminding me of MOTORPSYCHO). Interesting play on the great BLADE RUNNER death speech of Nexus 6 replicant Roy Batty in honor of the COVID pandemic. Great, emotional song. Almost a top three song. (18.5/20)

7. "Surrender" (6:44) a beautiful piano intro is soon joined by the rest of the band with such mature subtlety. What a gift is this band! Israel enters with an equally delicate vocal, but then everybody amps up for the brief chorus preview (with some awesome lead guitar riffing). Man the bass sounds so great on this album: I love how forward and full those notes are coming from Daniel Concha. Just a beautifully constructed, performed, and engineered song. My only complaint is that the drums aren't as forward as the bass. (Felipe is also such a master of subtlety in his drum play.) The instrumental passage in the fifth minute is good, just not as blow-me-away good as the rest of the song (though the drums come through a little better). The vocal delivery sounds so heartfelt--even from German on background vocals! My favorite top three song. (9.75/10)

8. "Needsun" (2:09) fades in as if coming from a previously recorded song--a sentimental salvage job by the band. (It's gorgeous--with great drumming and powerful vocals--so I can see why.) (4.5/5)

9. "Game Over" (6:28) melodic yet using an industrial sound palette to get its syncopated CRIMSONIAN ideas across, this was one of the band's last single releases before completing and compiling this album. It's interesting--and very much like the condensed style of Jem Godfrey's FROST* releases of the past decade--with some great electric guitar playing (also in a John Mitchell style)--but I find myself missing/wanting Israel/the band's vocals! Fortuneately, the song just keeps getting stronger as it goes along--until it wins you over! Impressive! (9/10)

Total Time 55:46

I must admit to being prejudiced against the possibility of liking this album as I have such love and admiration for the music (and lineup) of the band's 2009 incarnation and album, In Sudden Walks, but I'm won over. This music is great. It's different, but 14 years later you'd kind of hope that a band would grow and develop--not repeat the same sounds and songs over and over. Aisles have accomplished this in spades. I'm so glad the band persevered during the COVID years (and years of political and internal turmoil in Chile and within the band, respectively) to polish, perfect, and publish these songs!

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music. Aisles continues their stellar contribution to 21st Century progressive rock music. Definitely a Top 10 Album of 2023 (so far).

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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