Corvus Stone - Corvus Stone
Their self titled debut album positively ripples with all the characteristics of a seventies prog rock album. Twenty one tracks are lined up on this, but most of these are under four minutes long. Three of the tracks then line up at around nineteen, ten and eleven minutes respectively. There is a lot of music to take in here. Perhaps too much. I know that you can put 80 minutes of music on a CD, Guys, but that doesn't mean that you have to.
Now if there is one thing that prog rock stands and falls by it is virtuosity. If the musicians are not talented (and I mean really talented), then their ability to hold you through an album is going to be severely compromised. The problem is that, all too often, prog is all virtuosity and nothing else. I mean, who has not listened to Yes droning on for twenty minutes and waiting for a dénouement which never arrives. When I first put on Corvus Stone I feared that I was in for a bout of seventies Yes. I admit. I groaned. The first three tracks are all instrumental. Nine minutes before the fourth track, "Ice King" and finally some vocals. (But in case you find vocals out of place on an album like this, there is an instrumental version of the same track towards the end of the album).
By this time I had kind of identified where this band may be coming from. Imagine a mixture of King Crimson with Porucpine Tree. Heavy with synthesisers and some fairly intricate passages of guitar music, at times it threatened tom rock you but never really got round to it. The music invited you to listen, to appreciate, and I was thankful that I seemed to have mellowed in my attitude to prog. Simply put, if I had heard this in the eighties I would have written it off as a bunch of self-important hippies impressing each other with how clever they are. I cannot say I am converted, but I no longer run screaming from the room yelling "Anarchy in the UK".
Anyway, after that brief interlude, Corvus Stone's music gets back to what the band seem to do best - instrumentals. "I'll Leave It All Behind" is a bit more uptempo and less dependent on synthsisers for effect. But if you thought you could settle back from this point on, you were mistaken, for what follows next is a nineteen minute epic - "Corvus Stone". Right from looking at the track listing you notice the three long tracks and realise that these are going to be very much the showpieces of the album. I would not go as far as to say the rest is filler, clearly a lot of thought and effort has been put behind it, but Corvus Stone invite you to judge them on their showpieces, and the album is going to stand or fall by them.
Thankfully, we are spared any attempt at a pseudo-Tales from Topographic Oceansstyle Hindu mysticism - no footnotes from page 64 here. But it is an instrumental and to be honest, it taxes the listener to stick with it. Relief comes next with the vocals of "Moron Season" which even has, if you listen carefully, a cameo appearance by that riff from "Smoke on the Water". Two short instrumentals then provide breathing space before the second epic, "Moustaches in Massachussetts", puts in an appearance.
Like its longer predecessor, this too is an instrumental. "Jussi Pussi" (Gotta be a pun) provides some light relief with a bit of humour. Another change occurs with "The Rusty Wolff Attack"; it may be an instrumental but it's a drum solo. You have to be damn good to do a drum solo. I am not sure that there is enough here to put it alongside "Toad" however. "Lost and Found" provides more vocals and soon we are into the third epic, eleven minutes of "Cinema". By this point I am exhausted. The sheer length of the album makes it a struggle to go on.
Corvus Stone are obviously a band with a lot of talent. To pack a CD with complex music, shifting keys, varying rhythms and styles is quite a feat. These guys know what they are doing. The problem is, I am not sure how many other people know it. The album would have benefited by being shorter - about half the length. It may also have benefited by some more vocals, but the jury is still out on that one as a shorter album may have got away with so many instrumentals. In an age where so much music is intentionally immediate and throwaway, credit to Corvus Stone for sticking to their guns and demonstrasting that there is a place in the world for prog, even if this style of prog had its heyday thirty plus years ago. I just feel that outside of a dedicated following of devotees, few others will have the patience to get past the first two tracks.
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