A CD sized package arrived from the Netherlands recently at Progmeister Towers. Upon opening it I was presented with the latest album by Nine Stones Close for review. It was accompanied by an extra disc containing acoustic renditions from the main disc. The weather loaned itself nicely to curling up on the settee with hob nobs,tea and an evening in front of the hi-fi.
Nine stone Close to all intense and purpose is Adrian Jones, a guitarist of considerable skill and poise. for this venture the talents of Brendan Eyre on Keyboards, Marc Atkinson/vocals and Neil Quarrell/bass. I reviewed the first NSC album earlier in the year and found it to be on the metal side of prog. This new offering entitled Traces was no exception. However, I found a more wholesome and meaningful nature to this album than the previous.
Pressing the play button and we're off! The first track "Reality check" found Ade Jones taking no prisoners and shook the hob nob crumbs from my coffee table. Reflecting again on the previous release I was amazed at how much bigger the sound was. Indeed production was a fair leap forward and much improved on by this new found musical collective.
With new cohorts on board, Ade Jones opens this ultimately dark yet powerful with a tour de force that could easily be mistaken for later Led Zeppelin. Once the dust had settled from such an aural tirade the darkness continued with the delightful "Threads". A haunting and surreal landscape pinned to the ground by some astounding guitar playing. Joe Bonamassa sprung to mind. Strong lyrics emotionally and meaningfully portrayed by Marc Atkinson. I must say that technology has got to such a sophisticated juncture that it is impossible to believe there was no drummer involved on this project.
"Falling to Pieces" is a very sad song with a contempory message which given the present state of the world will reflect how many people feel. Both acoustic and electric guitars beautifully augmented by pastille keyboard textures. This lament glides nicely into the title song "Traces". There are some great elements to this peaceful and solemn song which culminates in a very powerful ending displaying some of Ade's finest work. More of this interplay can be heard on the accompanying disc should you be one of the first couple of hundred customers to buy a copy.
"Thicker than Water" is a fitting finale. Listeners to this closing epic are treated to a warm sumptuous soundstage. A fabulous framework for story telling and Marc Atkinson once again does an expert job of being the lyrical narrator of all compositions on the album. Ade Jones's blues guitar playing is made to sound Camel-like by Brendan Eyres choice of string accompaniment and wicked synth/organ fills. All in all a treat to listen to.
As a package this is a nice album. Not uplifting in anyway, but that is no criticism. Without knowing about the dark message apparent behind these songs, it would be easy to describe them as morose. This is not the case and the more that you listen the more you get from it. I feel that sometimes it's ok to be a little on the gloomy side and to vent the mood and greyness that you may feel as an artiste or person. Good god, Pink Floyd made quite a healthy living from it. This is an album well worth seeking out. Basquing in some of Ed Unitsky's finest artwork and offering a refreshing alternative to orange coloured girls with boot brushes on their eyes murdering Motown songs on x-factor I would council that you throw caution to the wind and purchase a copy forthwith.
Though not strictly conceptual I was intrigued as to the meaning behind this album. To do so I intend to ask the man himself. Keep an eye out for an interview real soon.
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