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Touchstone
The City Sleeps
December 2011
Released: Nove, SPV
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Munkwunk

I hadn’t heard of this British prog band before, so when I started my first spin of Touchstone’s “The City Sleeps” I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Sometimes it’s nice to go into a new album without any preconceptions, and this case wasn’t any different. In fact, it probably helped.



If someone had told me that their idea of Touchstone’s music was a mix between 70’s progressive rock and modern symphonic metal, I’d probably have pegged them for yet another in a long line of similar artists. Add to that combination a female lead vocalist and you’ve got yet another clone. While Touchstone doesn’t come off to me as being particularly original, I think it would be doing them a disservice to peg them with so many dozens of others.



Touchstone does deliver a fine blend of classic prog elements with a modern sound, but they never come off as derivative. The album opens strong with “Corridors” and continues its heavy appeal with “When Shadows Fall.” Vocalist Kim Seviour has a voice well-suited to the style, and at times I feel like I am listening to something from a Lunatica album. On later tracks though, keyboardist/male vocalist Rob Cottingham chimes in to add another element to the band’s sound. I don’t feel like Rob adds as much to the music as Kim, but he’s not unpleasant to listen to and doesn’t detract from the music either.



The biggest issue I had to overcome with this album is that the first two tracks set you up for an album that is more progressive metal than progressive rock, but as the time moves on that becomes less and less the case. Later tracks tend to tone down the sound and are far more tame (not that Corridors was a brutal piece to begin with) and at times the sound really moves into that ‘70s styling of progressive rock that you can really zone out to. That’s not a bad thing if it’s your style, but I found it distracting and, frankly, a little boring at times.



Overall, The City Sleeps is a solid progressive rock album with a few moments that may appeal to progressive metal fans. It’s not a bad listen, and the band certainly proves that they are talented musicians, but this album is too up and down for me to recommend to any specific group of people other than fans of old-school prog rock. It has some shining moments, but nothing overly impressive to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the style.
Track Listing

1. Corridors
2. When Shadows Fall
3. These Walls
4. Throw Them To The Sky
5. Sleeping Giants
6. Good Boy Psycho
7. Horizons
8. Half Moon Meadow
9. The City Sleeps
10. Corridors Epiphany

Lineup

Vocalist - Kim Seviour
Keyboards / vocals - Rob Cottingham
Guitars – Adam Hodgson
Bass - Paul Moorghen
Drums - Henry Rogers

Other reviews

» The City Sleeps
by Munkwunk

» The City Sleeps
by Erich


Next review: » Touchstone - The City Sleeps
Previous review: » Totally Fucking Gay - With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemas?

Touchstone
The City Sleeps
February 2012
Released: 2012, Steamhammer/SPV
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Erich

Touchstone is a progressive/modern metal band from the UK that formed in 2003. After an initial EP, the band released two full length albums on indie label Heavy Right Foot before securing a deal with SPV for 2012’s THE CITY SLEEPS. In a short time the band has amassed impressive credentials, including actor Jeremy Irons lending narration as well as performing in the CalProg festival, the Rite of Spring festival in Philadelphia, and opening for Black Label Society at the inaugural High Voltage Festival in London. Impressive credentials aside, success usually equates to good music and Touchstone seems to have that quality as well.



Touchstone is original in many respects, a truly progressive metal band that employs a female vocalist. Let’s be clear that this is not symphonic Goth, which is frequently promoted as progressive metal. The best way to describe Touchstone’s sound is to think of a combination of Enchant and Marillion’s music with the vocals of Edenbridge. Kim Seviour sings in a comfortable but limited range, foregoing the bombastic and operatic style of many female sirens mostly because she cannot hit the upper registers. She occasionally shares vocals with keyboardist Rob Cottingham who has a pleasant but unremarkable tone, content to add color while staying out of the way of Seviour. The first two tracks on the album clearly reveal the Enchant/Marillion influence musically, while “These Walls” has a straight-forward hair metal intro before smoothly transitioning into more Enchant music. “Half Moon Meadow” is dreamy semi-ballad that would be the signature track for hearing Seviour’s best work, while the title track is an 11 minute predictable but quality epic. Despite the Enchant worship, there are plenty of original elements in these songs most noticeable in the accessible and pleasing melodies. While nothing is decidedly heavy, there is some chunk and crunch in many of the songs that Enchant tends to lack.



In keeping with progressive metal, the music is quite businesslike, each musician in the band performing with the skill you expect in this style. The guitars are well-executed, avoiding overly complicated riffs and soloing, going more for texture and depth, a welcome approach. The production is precise as well, clear and articulate but not exactly warm or big. There are many noteworthy qualities on THE CITY SLEEPS. It offers a less complicated and more accessible style of progressive metal, a style in which memorable choruses and melodic hooks help to leave a more lasting impression than many bands. Touchstone occasionally ventures too close to the Cranberries jangle pop, but offers enough bite to satisfy progressive metal fans of Enchant, Marillion and Edenbridge. It will not hit you like a brick wall, but in truth, how much progressive metal ever really does?
Track Listing

1. Corridors

2. When Shadows Fall

3. These Walls

4. Throw Them To The Sky

5. Sleeping Giants

6. Good Boy Psycho

7. Horizons

8. Half Moon Meadow

9. The City Sleeps

10. Corridors Epiphany (Instrumental)

Lineup

Kim "Elkie" Seviour - Lead Vocals
Rob Cottingham - Vocals, Keyboards
Adam J Hodgson - Guitars.
Moo - Bass Guitars, Backing Vocals.
Henry Rogers - Drums and Percussion

Other reviews

» The City Sleeps
by Munkwunk

» The City Sleeps
by Erich


Next review: » Tourettes Syndrome - Sicksense
Previous review: » Totally Fucking Gay - With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemas?





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