I generally assume that others’ musical tastes are like my own, a musical bouillabaisse, and a melting pot of music for differing moods. By all means I have my favourites, Genesis and Big Big Train currently, but there are other flavours and seasonings. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Drifting Sun are new to me, they have absorbed a lifetimes music, and then spat it out as something quite unique.
Now is there anything I don’t like? Well, at the risk of hurting feelings, the album cover. A sort of image of a prog boy band in a Tolkein-esque style; I’m sure it is accurate in its depiction, but the contents would be served by something much more stylish. The inside of the booklet is nice but sorry Mr Artist, it’s a good drawing, I just find it bit twee. (If it’s any consolation, I draw things like this, but without as much skill, and think mine twee too).
Now to the music which is both simple and grandiose, rocking and classical, beautiful melodies combining to paint pictures, rich tapestries of notes joined by some simple but effective stitching. The lyrics speak of witches, wizards and dragons, but it works, not warlocks at all. Now on rotation in the car, this has been accompanied by Steve Hackett’s Wolflight, Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow, and a couple of folk oddities, but this has been my travelling companion of choice on the short commute to the office.
The ingredients of this soup; Genesis, Muse, Alan Parsons Project, Queen, the list could be endless but it is so pleasant a noise. Drifting Sun were formed in the early 90’s, but other than Pat Sanders the current line-up is completely different. I think therefore best to consider this a new band although the completists amongst you may want to seek out the earlier albums Drifting Sun (1996) and On The Rebound (1998).
The opening track, Trip The Life Fantastic, is beautiful but unlike some albums it gives little clue to what comes next. Overall it is a combination of some great songs and some well-constructed instrumentals. These musical interludes are just that, interludes. Often when a band choose to insert an instrumental the listener will think “filler” but these are not fillers, each one – Peach Blossoms, Sunsets, Ode To Nevermind and XXX Forever – seems to tell a story, a narrative that flows like a river from source to estuary. The only fault, and it may just be the download, is that the gap between tracks can seem like an eternity at times. There are some solos but none seem self-indulgent.
Five Ever, a simple but very moving ballad, offers a vocal performance to match some of Joe Payne’s on The Enid’s on Invicta. I’m touched, but quite a few people have said that. Sung over a piano and acoustic instrument background it is really quite exquisite. It’s a love story over 8 minutes, and every second a pleasure, even when the tempo completely changes about 5 minutes in you still want more. I hope this can be performed as well live. It has a touch of Muse about it, a touch of Queen and other things.
The Wizard and Tormented both lyrically touch upon myths and legends with some swirling keyboards, Jon Lord and the ubiquitous Wakeman, guitar solos and a pinch of Iron Maiden with slightly less gravel. Enjoyable but I wonder if the conclusion of each track would have been better if not faded, they seem to end before there time. The Wizard also reminds me a little bit of Dio’s Holy Diver, not much, but…
Now in the tradition of albums of old, and concerts for that matter, a band should end on a big finish; they do. The Last Supper is epic! There is a touch of Black Sabbath bass playing in there too – here be there dragons. I love the ambition of this piece and, although there may be cries of “Oh No!”, there is also a soupçon of ABACAB in there. I like the build, the sing-a-long aspect, the thematic nature of it.
It is a short review, but then I don’t feel the need to embellish with my words what I feel is a very good album. Maybe not a classic but, hell, sometimes I want to feel part of it rather than an audio observer. Go on treat yourself.
01. Tripping The Life Fantastic (6:22)
02. Peach Blossoms (2:00)
03. The Wizard (6:34)
04. Sunsets (2:42)
05. Lady Night (7:53)
06. Ode To Nevermind (2:15)
07. Five Ever (8:33)
08. XXX Forever (2:32)
09. Tormented (4:37)
10. The Last Supper (9:35)
Peter Falconer – Lead & Backing Vocals
Dan Storey – Guitars & Bass
Andrew Howard – Guitars
Pat Sanders – Keyboards
Will Jones – Drums
Record Label: Independent
County Of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 20th January 2015