22 September 2010

CD REVIEW: Also Eden - Differences as Light (2010)

(NB: this is a reprint of my review for Harmonic Lizard, another fine progressive music website. Check them out HERE.)

Hello, Harmonic Lizard Readers!

My name’s Bill Knispel, yr. Obd’t blogger and host for Bill’s Prog Blog. Our illustrious and inimitable leader here at the Lizard has asked me pop in with some reviews every now and again. This is something I leapt at…well, as much as a typical prog fan can leap at anything. He may regret this, as I tend to have a somewhat conversational (and occasionally irreverent) tone about things, but hey…looking at music from different points of view is what this is all about, right?

Today we’re taking a look and listen to the latest EP from British proggers Also Eden, titled Differences as Light. This is a three-track release by the young British quintet, and it’s a nice way to ease into the band and their sound. It’s also intended as a way for the band to introduce their newest member, Rich Harding, who replaced original vocalist Huw Lloyd-Jones. This then is their first output in their new line-up.

Now, if you’re not at all familiar with them, more’s the pity. They are a great sounding band, definitely neo-prog, but with some twists and turns tossed into the mix to keep things from getting too flat or traditional sounding. Neo’s got a nasty reputation, unfortunately…while bands like Marillion and IQ and Pallas, as examples, might all have been considered neo, they all sounded different. Today I find a lot of bands that are still somehow labeled as neo (despite the neo wave being long over) are interchangeable almost…if you took the singer out of the mix, I doubt I could tell the difference sometimes.

Also Eden’s not like that.

That much is evident on ‘Seeing Red,’ the EP’s lead track. A brief ambient intro gently eases the listener in before some heavy guitar and drums begin to pound away. Ian Hodson’s keyboards add a lush, orchestral shade to things, while Simon Rogers’ guitar playing alternates between gentle comfort and burning intensity. New vocalist Rich Harding’s vocals are perhaps the most typically ‘neo’ thing Also Eden has to offer, but this isn’t a criticism. His voice is strong, a high tenor, and I love it when he holds notes (tho I wish he’d sometimes hold them a little longer!). When needed, his voice will take on a nicely aggressive, almost snarling tone that really appeals. ‘Seeing Red’ is a nice example of dynamic shifts, easily switching between the quieter verses and more aggressive choruses and instrumental sections. The more I hear this one, the more I like it.

‘Oud En Nieuw’ (Old and New in Dutch) features some very nice piano work from Hodson, while Harding’s vocals in the opening sections is appropriately fragile and poignant. Guitar work is restrained, gently adding a chord here, a few picked lines there. This is an absolutely gorgeous ballad, with a violin part fading in at the 4-minute mark that feels like just the right final touch to complete the puzzle that this song might be. I couldn’t imagine the song without it…it adds a sorrowful voice to things that is simply perfect.

Differences as Light closes out with a 3-part epic under the title ‘Reality Cheque.’ This is a pretty biting indictment of the industry and business in general, a topic that’s been visited previously in sings like Fish’s ‘Big Wedge.’ There are moments in the opening section, ‘Fool’s Gold,’ where Harding’s vocals remind me delivery-wise of Euan Lowson, the vocalist on Pallas’ first two albums. ‘Fool’s Gold’ is a gentle opener that makes way for the heavier ‘Dead Reckoning,’ but not before giving Simon Rogers further opportunity to shine, with dueling guitar lines and a warm, welcoming tone that still finds a way to cut and slice. Steve Dunn’s bass work underneath is wonderful as well, punctuating things perfectly.

The ‘Dead Reckoning’ section is a nice change, with digital synths and a staccato delivery of same echoing Hardings spat out vocals. The stop/start feel through here is awesome, really working well to develop tension and intensity. There’s a definite electronic/faux-industrial feel through here, with even Dave Roelofs’ drums getting treated in the opening moments of this section. His cymbals are wonderfully trashy here, really fitting the vibe the band seems to be going for. A quick fade, gentle keyboards rise up, and we shift into the final movement of the composition, ‘Rainbows End.’ The highlight here really is on the vocal end of things, with call and response style vocals layering and shifting as the band gradually builds. Acoustic guitar is joined by sustained guitar chords, pulsing bass, glistening guitar leads. The ‘Fool’s Gold’ reprise that closes out things seems to offer some small degree of comfort until the final moments, where guitar, bass and drums remain the only instruments as Harding rasps out the final words…




It’s an ambiguous closing, making one wonder if the subject of the song himself has been the one checkmated, or if he did the same to his lifestyle.

Also Eden’s got a lot to offer…they’re not just your typical newer neo-prog band. Differences as Light is a great way to discover this band, newly aligned and reconfigured and get a taste for what they have to offer…hit up their website or your closest friendly progressive music vendor and pick up a copy.

Track Listing:
1. Seeing Red 8:27
2. Oud En Nieuw 6:06
3. Reality Cheque 10:20
I. Fool's Gold
II. Dead Reckoning
III. Rainbows End

Rich Harding: vocals
Ian Hodson: keyboards/vocals
Simon Rogers: guitars/vocals
Steve Dunn: bass
Dave Roelofs: drums and percussion

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