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Round Table Review
Tracklist: Sleep (7:10), Start The Fire (5:06), Everything Was Not Enough (8:42), Roses (5:39), Lights (7:30), Sea-Nature (8:10), Day On My Pillow (4:22), World Through My Eyes (10:04), Wasted Land (4:52), Bound To Reach The End (6:39), New Stars (6:30)*
* bonus track only on Special Edition Hybrid-SACD with 5.1 mix (plays in stereo on all CD-players)
I've been a big fan of RPWL ever since I received the promo of their first album God Has Failed. On this debut album the band showed their heritage as a Pink Floyd tribute band but also proved that they were more than able to write and produce their own compositions. On Trying to Kiss the Sun the band started developing their own sound while experimenting with different styles ranging from psychedelia to pop songs. I still consider that album their best to date. Stock, which followed, was really nothing more than an album with left-overs to keep the fans happy until their next album, which has now arrived.
For some reason I was quite disappointed when I played World Through My Eyes the first couple of times. I couldn't really pin down why, but I eventually found that I missed the diversity of Trying to Kiss the Sun. I miss the more wide ranging styles and experimenting of that album. What's more, although this new album does contain a couple of rocking tracks, singer Yogi maintains a very mellow way of singing in most songs, giving the album a bit of a subdued feel. This, at times, makes it feel very uninspired. Also, unlike Trying to Kiss the Sun there's quite a few (good) songs on the album that don't really stick in my mind. I must have listened to the album at least 15 times by now, but looking at the titles I sometimes cannot remember what the songs are like. Now, it might be that I'm just getting old but normally, for me, this is a clear indication of the strength of songs (or lack thereof). This album is a grower though and I have to admit that I really like the album by now and thoroughly recommend it, but I also think it doesn't live up to Trying to Kiss the Sun as a follow-up.
A good thing is that the band keeps moving away from their Pink Floyd heritage and continues to develop their own style. This is still grounded very well in the 70s sound, while also incorporating new influences. For instance, I seem to hear some Sylvan influences on this album, while the band also continues to use Asian references in music and lyrics. As a matter of fact, the band seems to have emerged themselves in Asian philosophy and have used the Asian Ramayana myth (a.k.a. the Ramakien) as a basis for the themes on this album. For instance, the lyrics of Sleep refer to Hindu gods like Maya and Shiva, while Start the Fire contains a bit of a Mantra chant ('om jai, deva').
Now, a few words about the individual tracks. Sleep is a good song. Powerful rhythm sections combined with Asian influences. It's also a song that sets the expectations for the album since Yogi's vocals stay quite mellow and whispering throughout most of this rather heavy song.
Start the Fire and Wasted Land are rather straightforward rock songs. Both songs may be more mainstream but they certainly stick in my mind and are one of the few moments on the album where the band show that they can still play powerful stuff and haven't fully fallen into a coma. Wasted Land is quite U2-like, with a great rhythm pattern.
Everything Was Not Enough is a nice sensitive ballad about personal change and one of the best tracks of the album. Eventually it builds into something more powerful with a pinch of Beatles. If you listen well you can even hear the lyrics of Start the Fire again at the end. I like these little cross-references.
Roses is a real treat because it combines one of my favourite bands with one of my favourite singers: Ray Wilson. Unlike Martien's opinion I think Ray is one of the best vocalists in the business and very underrated. Seemingly Yogi was never comfortable with singing this song, so they asked Ray. It immediately proves what a more powerful vocal approach can do with the music. A definite highlight!
3 Lights is a another good one. After a mellow vocal section it moves into an instrumental half full of organ and synth solos. Eventually we are treated to a fine Floydian guitar solo. This song would be to this album what Home Again is to Trying to Kiss The Sun.
Sea Nature is a cover of a Steve Hillage song from 1978 which the band also performed during last year's Stock tour. Now, not being familiar with Hillage's music at all I can't really compare it to the original. It's an interesting track, with a driving rhythm section and synths but certainly not one of my favourites on the album. Maybe it's the almost silly lyrics ...
I quite like Day on my Pillow, although it's one of the mellowest songs on the album. It's got a catchy chorus that actually sticks to mind and the vocal overdubs give the song a really warm, cozy feel. It's also a song where the more R&B type Floyd that was present during their pre-Dark Side live work shines through a bit.
According to many (excluding myself) the highlight of the album, World Through My Eyes starts with some effects and samples of Asian instruments. More Asian influenced music follows. This is one of the few moments on this album where the band shows that they can still experiment with different styles and influences. Unfortunately it takes almost 3 minutes before the song actually gets going. Also, the vocal melodies aren't the strongest ones I've heard by this band. The instrumental middle section is a atmospheric highlight of the album though, one of which there are not enough unfortunately.
Finally, Bound to Reach the End is another dreamy track that drags a bit. And as one would expect the song and the album close with a big climatic guitar solo.
Don't get me wrong. World Through My Eyes is a fine, recommended album in it's own right. However, as a follow-up to God Has Failed and Trying to Kiss the Sun it contains too few surprises to really make a big impression on this long time RPWL fan. Then again, this album is a grower, so who knows where it might end up.
I came to this roundtable review as someone who had never heard any work from this band, and therefore may have a new and objective opinion to offer. So when I received RPWL's World Through My Eyes for review, I was excited about discovering a new prog band...will they sound fresh, new and attractive, as I found ACT? Maybe they will sound a lot like the 'classic' prog bands from the 70's, but clearly carrying on and advancing with their own quirks - like IZZ. Or perhaps they will be on the heavy side, with a unique signature style that sets them apart from and above others in the genre. That was my impression of Heaven's Cry for example. Finally, it was entirely possible they would strike me as a pretty good band to warm up the CD changer with, like Jadis.
This last impression is the one World Through My Eyes left on this reviewer. RPWL is a warm-fuzzy band, middle-of-the-road, not going too fast, not making any sudden turns. With a decent singer delivering earnest lyrics, a guitarist covering the Rothery/Edge styles, a keyboardist who sounds like another undiscovered Wakeman family member and a rhythm section that does what they're told, they succeed in meeting a minimum definition of progressive rock. Given their mature catalogue (at least 3 releases and other related projects), RPWL sound a little underdeveloped on this CD - like they followed a recipe: A cup of U2, a cup of Marillion, a dash of retro clichés like sitar-guitar and guitar-through-Leslie, scatter a few keyboard solos (carefully coordinated to not be played on the same instrument twice in a row), a guitar/synth 'battle' in track 6 - 'the art-rock-fantasy' track...and just when I had given up on being surprised, the title track came up: Steven Wilson's voice, on a song that sounds as if it might have been cut from Peter Gabriel's Up! Well OK getting a little closer to prog now, with its 'epic' structure. But still, from the cover art to the audio production, I sense a re-warmed, 'white-bread' quality throughout this product.
Now don't get me wrong, I will not throw away this CD. Every track is a well-crafted song, with a melody that has great potential to lodge in my brain (Roses for example). The last tracks feature a bit of apocalyptic force in the singing - very stylish today, with bands like Arena, Shadow Gallery, Threshold, IQ, and yes Jadis already digging in the same theme mine. In many ways RPWL compare (in my mind at least) favourably with Jadis. Pleasant, friendly music, good hooks and worldly, mature lyrics. Good song craft will get you a certain distance but some fans want to hear something more - a vibe everyone else wants and can't quite get, or riveting raw talent, or well written overarching epics - if you want your CD to be put into the disc player with all the Spocks and Kings and Angyreonas out there, and not just warm it up for them.
RPWL's first album God Has Failed did not really get my attention, probably due to the reason I purchased the CD because of a sticker (written in a language that I don’t understand) that said something about Pink Floyd. My expectations were of course that the music must be very close to Pink Floyd. Yes, there was some influence but it’s different than Pink Floyd. I gave a chance to their previous album Trying To Kiss The Sun. It’s better but still it cannot bring me up where I can say “I like it”. Well, prog is not a matter of like or dislike, I think. But sometimes, I need to view an album on that standpoint as well, despite other elements such as: complexity, changing tempo, structural integrity, etc.
In this World Through My Eyes, the band’s music is now even mature and maintaining the same vein with their previous album. Patience is probably the right word for enjoying this album. I have to wait until halfway through a particular track to get good musical segments. I keep pondering to myself why the band did not compose beautiful segment(s) right at the beginning of the track? For those of you who like an atmospheric / psychedelic style with barely minimum variations of high and low points, this album might suit your taste. Let me now review on a track by track basis.
The Sleep track opens with an eastern music nuance similar with what Kula Shaker and Deep Forest have done. What really struck my mind the first time I listened to this track was that its rhythm section - and part of its melody - reminded me to other musician’s work. I tried to memorize who has composed similar rhythm before. A couple of days later, finally I got it and I played the song altogether with this track. It’s a Def Leppard’s song called Truth? from Slang album. It’s not exactly the same - Def Leppard’s one is more upbeat than RPWL’s, but they both share similar rhythm. The style of guitar reminds me to David Gilmour’s in High Hopes off the Division Bell album. There is keyboard sound during quiet passages that sound like Carpet Crawlers off Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album. Despite the fact that some musical passages / elements of this track have some similarities with other musicians’ works, this is an enjoyable track.
Start the Fire is an atmospheric and happy mood track with soft guitar work and some eastern percussion work at some end of the bars. The organ work at the ending part of the track is really stunning – combining the 70s sound with modern technology. But I have to wait 4 minutes before reaching this segment. In some passages at background I can hear a sort of clarinet sound that reminds me again of Kula Shaker.
Everything Was Not Enough is a mellow track that starts off with soft piano work that once misled me to the illusion of Kayak’s Life of Gold intro. My illusion did not come true as when the vocal enters the music it’s totally different melody. Acoustic guitar accentuates the piano to accompany voice line. It’s a quite plain track, melody-wise. The enjoyment part of this track is probably on the sound produced and the Gilmour guitar style.
Roses has a happy mood and moderate tempo track. Ray Wilson on vocals offers a slightly different style. Melody-wise this track does not offer a wide variety of high and low points – the music flows continuously with some passages in quieter mood and slower tempo. Good guitar sound, softer than typical Pink Floyd songs.
The following track Three Lights opens with an acoustic guitar followed with vocal line in low / medium register note. The vocal quality reminds me of Gilmour's voice. This track brings me to full enjoyment when keyboard takes the lead in solo and followed with soft guitar solo while simple keyboard sound is played at background to provide the song’s atmosphere. Wow! What an excellent segment! It brings this track to the end. The only problem I have is that I have to wait for approximately 5 minutes to reach this segment.
Sea-Nature is an excellent track that blew my mind at first listen! It starts off with a drum shot followed with punchy keyboard work in ambient style. If I observe only the keyboard part, it reminds me to the music nuance of Roger Daltry’s song Under A Raging Moon from album with the same title. The solo guitar and keyboard that intertwined one another in the middle of the track is really amazing. I notice a variety of nuances and tempo changes that conjure up into a wonderful composition. It’s my favourite track. Superb!
Day On My Pillow is a moderate tempo track with a clear voice line and wonderful guitar effects and soundscapes. The music flows in a continuous stream with little variations in terms of melody and tonal voice line. The band demonstrates a well crafted combination of keyboard / organ and Floydian guitar sounds during the interlude part. This short interlude creates beautiful musical nuances.
World Through My Eyes starts off with a soundscape of female native chants in eastern music nuance followed with male voice. The harmony between vocal and eastern music is nice. Long sustained guitar sounds augment the opening part, followed by vocal and Indian percussion. The music then turns to disco type rhythm with sampling technique. This part is intertwined with vocals and turns quieter during transition. After halfway through the track, the keyboard sound enters in the vein of Pink Floyd signatures. I’ve seen frequent tempo changes performed in a smooth way. This is probably the best track of this album. It has a strong structure and excellent sound variations.
Wasted Land is a moderate tempo track in the vein of Radiohead / Muse that flows almost plainly with minimum high and low variations. Halfway through, this track does not attract me. But the interlude is good before it returns back to original rhythm.
Bound To Reach The End has an opening keyboard sound that seems to bring the music of Peter Gabriel’s Here Comes The Flood. But when the voice line enters the music, it’s totally a different melody. Sometimes this track is enjoyable but It’s not something that I like all the time, it depends on mood, I guess.
In conclusion, this album has indicated the band’s improvement from its previous album. If the band really pursue a musical direction similar to Pink Floyd, some catchy melodies should be added in their compositions. Having released some albums now, with similar vein, it’s the band’s decision to stay the music “as-is” in their future releases. Or, they might craft their music with much melodic compositions – by still maintaining their existing style - to gain a wider audience.
God Has Failed was the debut album of German prog rockers RPWL and in my opinion it still is their best effort so far. Their previous album Trying To Kiss The Sun was no bad album of course, but it lacked some quality if you compare it with their marvellous debut. World Through My Eyes goes back to the Floyd-ian sound of their first album, which is something that these guys are really good at, so….
Sleep is a perfect opener, a song filled with Oriental sounds and some typical Gilmour slide guitar parts and melodies. Start The Fire is a completely different song; it features their “own” RPWL sound and this song is rather melancholic and dreamy. It has a nice and even catchy melody and it is rather original.
Everything Was Not Enough is the first highlight, featuring some ELO and Beatles influences, especially in the rather “soft” beginning of the song. The Floyd influence is very dominant in here; just listen to Obscured By Clouds again and you know where RPWL got their inspiration for this song. At the six minutes mark there is a breathtaking, but rather (too) short guitar solo. Roses features a guest singing role for Ray Wilson and as I have “problems” with liking his voice, I would dub this song as the weakest of the album; too much singing and a too poppy song approach do not help either. Lights reminds me of God Has Failed, this is probably due to the amazing guitar and keyboard solos. Definitely a track that will make you feel better when you are down….
The guitar solo in Sea-Nature makes me want to press the repeat button every time I hear it, although the rest of the song is rather “spacey” and mediocre. But the absolute best track of this album is the title track. A song that clocks more than 10 minutes which is filled with Oriental sitar sounds, “weird” vocal parts, a superb melodic chorus and guitar melodies and solos that are out of this world. I get goose bums all over every time I hear this track. Wasted Land is a rather straight forward up-tempo rocky song and the album ends with a ballad like track, which again is taken to a higher level by the smashing guitar solo.
All in all you could say that RPWL has made a great album, especially some of the guitar solos are some of the best I have ever heard, but still as a whole I like God Has Failed better….. World Through My Eyes is a wonderful progressive rock album and certainly a must for all lovers of Pink Floyd.