Returning once more to confound listeners and music reviewers alike, such as yours truly, with their ever evolving and pleasing neo-prog is England's Touchstone with their fourth long player, Oceans Of Time. Dare say, for their benefit, it's hard to pigeonhole Touchstone's sound. Is it hard rock? AOR? Progressive rock? Yes and then some, and it's not necessarily all that confounding really.
However, I might say that Oceans Of Time could be their most 'proggy' album to date. If anything, the songs are quite varied, visiting old territory and exploring the new. Touchstone also returns to some familiar themes. The title track continues the Wintercoast story, and Shadow's End wraps up the Shadows trilogy begun on Discordant Dreams.
These songs are also good examples of the strong progressive nature of the album, with Touchstone throwing curves to your ears. Yet Oceans Of Time will also sound more like familiar Touchstone as well. The musical canvas is quite grand lavished with layers of instrumentation, notably Hodgson's guitar and Cottingham's keyboards. Flux is another fine example of Touchstone's exotic musical brew. It's got some hard rock chops mixed with the prog, and then, about the three minute mark, it calms down. Synths stir, then Kim Seviour's vocals arrive, and the arrangement swells to sweet crescendo. It's one of best moments of the album.
Other highlights include the bass and drum lines of Contact, a moody piece where Seviour's voice is alluring and graceful; the clever drumming within Fragments, possibly the closest thing to straight melodic rock song here; and, Spirit of the Age, a song with balancing lighter moments with heavier ones, and Seviour at her most sublime. Touchstone is band that keeps evolving and getting better, and so is always interesting and entertaining. Oceans Of Time is well recommended.
Touchstone is band that keeps evolving and getting better, and so is always interesting and entertaining. Oceans Of Time is well recommended.
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