Released: 2012, Steamhammer/SPV
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?