Album Reviews

Issue 2022-082

It's Prog-Tober! 31+ albums and reviews in 31 days!

Lalu — Paint The Sky

Lalu - Paint The Sky
Reset To Preset (6:25), Won't Rest Until The Heat Of The Earth Burns The Soles Of Our Feet Down To The Bone (3:42), Emotionalised (4:36), Paint The Sky (7:55), Witness To The World (4:44), Lost In Conversation (4:37), Standing At The Gates Of Hell (5:05), The Chosen Ones (7:20), Sweet Asylum (1:40), We Are Strong (7:40), All Of The Lights (1:52), Paint The Sky (instrumental) (7:55)
Andy Read

A quick scan through the biography of French keyboardist, composer, and producer Vivien Lalu is enough to fathom his place in the world of progressive rock and metal.

As the son of Noelle and Michel Lalu, musicians from a 1970s French proggers Polène, Lalu was quite literally born into the world of prog. Between his contributions as a musician, to production and co-writing duties, his biography is impressive, having worked with the likes of Chris Catena, Laszlo Jones, Shadrane, Shadow Gallery, Tomorrow's Eve, Minds Eye, and more recently A-Z (Alder-Zonder).

Paint The Sky is his third solo release. Following the pattern of releasing an album every eight years or so, it follows Oniric Metal from 2005, which was followed up by Atomic Ark, released in 2013.

The first two followed more of a progressive metal path. While both had their fans, neither really worked for me, being too disparate in their composition and line-ups, and lacking memorable hook-lines and performances.

Paint The Sky is a very different affair; both in its construction and in the quality of the end product.

First, it has been created within a traditional band format. Lalu is joined by Damian Wilson on vocals and drummer Jelly Cardarelli. Joop Wolters is handling both guitar and bass duties. There are a whole host of guests, but these act in supporting roles. The main sound and focus comes from the four members of Lalu: The Band. That gives a consistency and flow and coherence to this album; something that was sorely missing before.

Second, this is not a progressive metal album. This is modern progressive rock. There is a clear Yes influence to the 11 songs offered here. It is heavy in spots when the guitar is let loose, but for the most part the riffing and groove is led by the bass and drums. The instrumental sections are extensive, and extended in places, and there is a clear jazz flavour to a lot of the playing. Wilson sticks mainly to his higher register; again delivering some clear Jon Anderson comparisons in places. Many of his melodic lines could sit on some of the best AOR albums from the 80s. His performance here is one of his best; and that is saying something.

Contrary to my expectations, band-leader Lalu sticks mostly to filling a background role. His keys never over-power the music. Instead, they lay the foundations and atmosphere for each song. As a result, it is the bass work of Wolters and the drumming of Carderelli that makes this album a compulsive listen. Their playing throughout is world-class.

However, all those performances would be wasted if the songs were not up to scratch. With a playing time of more than an hour, this is straying on being too long for my tastes. Each time I listen, I am always fully engaged. This is on a par with the best albums by the likes of Transatlantic and The Flower Kings, and far more digestible than their more recent efforts! For a progressive rock album, the writing is concise, and the time simply flies by.

It is hard to pick highlights and this is a very consistent album. If I had to select three songs for a playlist then I'd go for opener Reset To Preset, then Witness To The World, with the more expansive The Chosen Ones to close. The combination of Wilson's voice with that of Steve Walsh (Kansas) on the title track is also very effective.

Paint The Sky is a highly recommended album of modern progressive rock. A collection of magnificently-memorable melodies, by a group of musicians at the very top of their game.

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