Highly anticipated, Oceans Of Time the new album from UK progressive rock band Touchstone is a release sure to delight and excite their fans. It brings a wave of creative sounds and mesmeric temptation which is destined to also recruit more passionate followers and though admittedly this was our first introduction to the quintet, it took little time in becoming a compelling and beautifully crafted persuasion to meet expectations which were bred from being aware of their well seeded reputation, a good strength of anticipation which the album met with its expressive presence. Whether it lit enough major fires in thoughts and emotions is still under debate but undoubtedly the ten song melodic evocation bred a desire to investigate previous releases with its riveting premises and absorbing touch.
The Hear No Evil/Cherry Red Records released Oceans Of Time according to its promo, continues the Wintercoast story which began in their acclaimed 2009 album of that name and has continued through subsequent title tracks of the equally welcomed The City Sleeps of 2011 and the new release. Also to be found upon the album is the final part of the Shadow trilogy, which started with 2007 release Discordant Dreams. Obviously if this is your first time with the band this means little apart from adding to the retrospective intrigue but as all songs are easily standalone suasions it makes little impact on the end thoughts. Produced by John Mitchell (You Me At Six, Lower Than Atlantis, Funeral For A Friend), Oceans Of Time combines the purest essences of progressive and melodic rock with a wealth of flavours and spices which brings a magnetic and enthralling call from the songs. Not all of the tracks are as successful as others but throughout each it is impossible to journey their expanses without finding elements and ideas which ignite the imagination, even if often the songs fail to follow up those moments so that overall it draws strong satisfaction and appreciation rather than lingering passion.
There is no problem with the opener though, the new single from the album. Flux is a scintillating introduction and aural temptress which expels an electro breath before it takes a mere second to unveil a stomping gait and glorious melodic embrace, riffs scything through the air with poise and sonic bait whilst rhythms make a crisp platform for the sirenesque vocals of Kim “Elkie” Seviour. Backed by the tones of keyboardist Rob Cottingham it is an elegant and smouldering long kiss on the ear within a vibrant flame of sound and energy. This album version of the song takes the listener on a fuller expressive and pulsating stroll with enthralling melodic asides which builds on the punchiness of the single edit to provide stronger atmospheric and evocative pastures to immerse within. Neither stands above the other ensuring that if you have the album it is well worth picking up the single also.
From the excellent start the following Contact with an almost dance seeded initial beckoning emerges into a sultry climate heated by the again outstanding vocals, a constant over the album, and the precise guitar invention of Adam Hodgson. It is an enchantment given substance and depth by the bass prowl of Moo and the strong yet respectful rhythms of Henry Rogers. Like many of the tracks on Oceans Of Time it suggests and hints at more than it delivers but nevertheless with the rhythmic skill and potency of the drums the track is a thoroughly engaging and enticing continuation of the fine start of the release.
Next up Tabula Rasa has a light almost eighties coaxing to its tenderly touching melodic lures whilst vocally Seviour holds a Stevie Nicks caress to her tones which matches the Fleetwood Mac like enterprise and flavour of the song. Like its predecessor the track fails to live up to the opener but leaves plenty to be enjoyed and devoured greedily by ears and thoughts whilst its successor Fragments rises to and stretches beyond the great heights which was laid down initially. Fragments is rhythm heaven, the opening big boned tantalising web of Rogers’ adventure immediate slavery of the passions, especially aided by Seviour walking its tendrils with her beguiling voice. The drums hold their irresistible lure throughout the song whilst it evolves its narrative exploring exotic Middle Eastern climes and transfixing beauty through melodic sceneries which change and emerge to greater seduction before the ears. It is a magnificent track; the highest pinnacle of the album which gives the rest of the release a tall order to contend with.
Both Spirit Of The Age and Shadow’s End create charms to wrap the senses in for full satisfaction though they understandably fall short of the target just set. The first is a gentle melodic evocation which like many songs juggles the passions, at times holding them tight and in other moments letting them slip through less efficient persuasions though like the album with time and attention it does make stronger convincing declarations. The second of the pair also has times where it sparks up riveted interest and then loses the strength of its hold to leave a satisfied smiling but eager to move on appetite. The same applies to Solace, the song a reworking of the song from Wintercoast. It is a strong and pleasing track but one which still has yet to really seduce the imagination and thoughts, it raising more uncertainties than appreciation in many ways.
The rhythmic devilry of Rogers triggers keen anticipation as Through The Night steps into view, again his craft and invention a virulent tempting. The song itself once into its flow does not live up to the fascination though again maybe one which ebbs and flows in its creative captivation but still makes a provocative companion. The guitars and vocals alongside the drums dance with some stirring imagination across the offering which cannot be resisted but at the end of the day like parts of the album it has no lingering enticement to leave behind.
The closing title track has veins of undefined familiarity running through it which instantly pricks interest from its start and with whispers of those earlier eastern winds, is an arresting conclusion. Masterly constructed and impressively presented the song epitomises the album, a song which at times walks the edge of rapture but in the end never crosses the line to bother such intense flames. Oceans Of Time is definitely a richly appealing and enjoyable album, but one which missed its potential and certainly for these emotions fails to light major fires in the passions, then again it triggered a want to discover previous albums so Touchstone certainly had some strong success.
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