Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
5 stars Corvus Stone is the new project by members of other prog artists Bun Chakeze who release "Whose Dream?" in 2010. Guitarist Colin Tench returns with Corvus Stone, playing guitars, and he is joined by Pasi Koivu who is a wizard on keyboards, and Petri Lemmy LindstrÃ¶m plays bass, Robert Wolff is on drums, Blake Carpenter on vocals, Stef Flaming on guitars, John Culley on guitars, and Victor Tassone also plays drums.
Now that I have a copy of the CD packaging I have to mention that it has some sensational artwork depicting a red sky with full moon and black crow perched on a crossroads sign. This could mean a number of things but speaks to me of the many crossroads in life we may be lead into. The scary cinema sign and long staircase is alluding to the tracks on the album, and the bird is a running theme on the artwork within. The booklet is very attractive thanks to Sonia's wonderful art throughout including an amusing shot of 3 moustached rock chicks and band members' faces embedded in art culture such as Mona Lisa, Superman, and Mary Poppins. The middle of the book is a closeup of the crimson cover art, and there is also a few more designs of similar paintings with the crow perching on a cross and a grotesque gargoyle. The liner notes feature a picture of the band and lyrics and special thankyous of those who inspired the members, including myself and some progarchives members! (A very pleasant surprise I must admit).
The music varies throughout from jazz fusion, to spacey keyboard dominated instrumentals, to classic 70s rock with heavy lashings of electric guitar. It opens with a symphonic intro on 'The Curtain Rises', with a cinematic atmosphere, and moves along from song to song incorporating a myriad of styles to captivate the listener. The songs never outstay their welcome and in fact some are too short for their own good. However there is a lot to offer the listener; although the songs are not focussing on prog elements per se, there are still a great deal of proggish constructs to revel in. 'October Sad Song' is an accessible musical treat, with Camel like lead guitar melodies. Pasi's synth is clean and retro, maintaining a consistent motif, while Colin blissfully takes centre stage on electric guitar. The musicians answer each other and form some exceptional phrases, and the bass and drums augment the instrumental. The wah-wah electric guitar solo is exquisite, with tremolo bar shudders and incredible soaring string bends.
'Highway to Emptiness' pumps along on a steady tempo, and the organ swells and cascading guitar help it along. The synth surges have that continuum feel made famous by Jordan Rudess. So far a very skilfully executed album.
'Ice King' is here in 2 forms, at first provided with Blake's vocals, that sound like the theatrical work of an Ayreon project. I like both versions of this track, each as spacey, chilling and atmospheric as the other.
'I'll Leave It All Behind' is a very jumpy instrumental with a great melody and awesome keyboards. This one is uptempo with a glorious organ outburst. The beat is strong and it features vibrant guitars, hi hat work and wandering basslines.
'Corvus Stone' runs to 8:20, opening with swathes of keyboards and acoustics. It eventually powers along with a hypno tech sequencer, heavy doses of lead guitar, a sprinkling of ambient keys, and a dash of sporadic percussion. The music is permeated with odd angular rhythms, swells of keys, strange time sigs, and a wash of keyboard and extended lead guitar soloing. The improvisational guitar runs, and very spacey synths, lend a King Crimson feel. This has a peaceful ending and just lulls me into a dream; the haunting guitar and drifting keys are incredible, played to perfection.
'Moron Season' has a return to gentle vox, and then is enveloped in a jaunty melody, the distorted guitar spasms are overpowered by classy Hammond 70s style organ solo, with lightning fingers on the keys. This is a joyous celebration of prog excess; it is fun and even uses the Smoke on the Water riff at one point.
'Horizon' has an accessible melody, a measured tempo, a crossover style vibe and jazz fusion rhythms. It ends quickly before it even reaches the 2 minute mark. The even shorter 'Intermission' is a blaze of Eastern flavoured acoustics. This is followed by 'Moustaches in Massachusetts' that boasts a fast tempo, and feels like Santana focussing on a frenetic percussion, Hammond and lead guitar. When it switches tempo signature, the song is unrecognizable from the one at the opening.it grown more intense at the end with grinding distorted chords.
'Pilgrims' has a crystalline keyboard layer and Colin solos eloquently over. This instrumental wafts along on waves of organ shimmers and divine lead guitar. You can drift off into a daydream during this track, it is captivating and poetic.
'JussiPussi' is a bizarre, short blast of hyper energy, with metal guitar blasts, weird acoustic bursts and a frantic bass. It launches into Gentle giant territory with expulsions of xylophone and blazing trumpet freak outs. This is one of the proggiest tracks, and is highly experimental careening all over the place.
'Iron Pillows' is off kilter musicianship, with manic organ runs, a strong beat, and lead guitar with an improvised feel. It is akin to King Crimson, the time sig is delirious and it switches into some dynamic guitar and organ dialogue.
'After Solstice' has excellent drumming, wonderful lead guitar picking and spacey keys. It builds to a grand organ solo and locks into a faster tempo, with high speed picking, then dreamy guitar and keyboard embellishments.
'The Rusty Wolff Attack' is Robert's stunning drum solo, while 'Lost and Found' is a nice slow song with a Mellotron sound and it ends quickly after some soft vocals and ambient strings. 'Scary Movie' is one of my favourites, that has a heavier guitar edge and some recognizable Led Zeppelin style riffs. There is a spacey vibe going on and some rather avant sounds with a razor sharp dissonant guitar over measured rhythms. Petri's bass heartbeat is entrancing, and Colin's guitar spirals wildly out of control until it closes with some crunching metal chords.
'Cinema' is the longest song clocking 10:50, and it latches onto an ascending 4 note melody. The music is dreamy and beautiful. The acoustic vibrations are outstanding and there is a very gentle motif on a Mellotron sound alike synth. This instrumental is a real showcase for this dextrous band.
'You're So Wrong' blossoms with piano and guitar over vocals. It has a similar structure to Yes' 'Starship Trooper' at first. The vox are great, encompassing soft melodies, shimmering organ, and peaceful guitars. 'Ice King' sounds like ghostly theremin, and is a very beautiful slice of spacey ambiance. I really like this track, reminding me of 70s space rock or, more specifically, Goblin. 'Ten Inch Lisa' closes the album with 31 seconds of Spanish acoustics.
The album has so many songs that it has enough to maintain interest even for the most casual listener. There are some masterful tracks on offer, and Corvus Stone blend many genres to form one incredible album. The passion of the musicians as they play together is infectious, and it is a joyous labour of love from beginning to end. I was delighted that the band were able to create such a dynamic sound, that is highly innovative and brimming over with virtuoso skill.