Alizarin – The Last Semblance
Release Date: 10/07/2020
Running Time: 58:46
Review by Beth Jones
Salutations once again music fans. It’s a glorious sunny day again here in our little corner of Wales, and I almost spent the day in the garden being productive, but, owing to the untimely death of my pressure washer, I’m now writing instead! I didn’t really want to be outside anyway… it’s overrated… damn.
Anyway, the subject of my musings today is Los Angeles based cinematic prog rockers, Alizarin, and their upcoming new release “The Last Semblance”. Formed in 2017, this will be the bands second album. Their first, “Cast Zenith”, was released in 2018 and was a strictly instrumental album, however Guitarist and band founder Josh Kay has now stepped up to vocal duties, providing another element to their sound.
The band’s press release says that this album ‘covers a wide spectrum of sonic landscapes and emphasizes the melodic journey over deliberate technique.’ My first impression of the sound was that it indeed explores many sonic landscapes, however I think the journey that it takes is both melodic and technical in equal measures. If you like true prog with many deep routed jazz rhythm changes, close harmonies, and unexpected cadences, this is certainly the album for you. It has a classic sound, which reminds me very much of bands like The Enid and Rush, but also is heavily influenced by more recent developments like Opeth.
The album starts off in true prog style, with ‘Elegy Simularca’, a near 8-minute song that is heavily routed in exploring instruments, with the addition of vocals. I’m a massive fan of instrumental exploration that this genre affords, so this for me was a good start. Leading in with synth strings, and then synth arpeggiator, the song progresses into sections that suggest urgency, with staccato guitar riffs and bass lines and offbeat accents in the drum line, juxtaposed with flowing synth and long vocal lines; interspersed with calmer section with all instruments given more chance to flow. There is also a superb guitar solo in this track.
The whole album continues along the same vein, with complex riffs and solos on the guitar, more rhythm changes than I’ve had hot dinners, attention to detail in terms of dynamics and tempos, and deep rooted layers of synth, emphasising the classic ‘prog originator’ sound that underpins what this band do.
There is a very clever bit of attention to detail at the end of the final track ‘The Ivory Silo’, as it finishes with the same chord on synth strings that the album starts with, bringing it full circle. I liked that very much.
All in all, this is a very accomplished album. But I do have a few issues with it. Firstly, they commit, for me, the cardinal sin of music. The fade out. Track 2, ‘Fathom’ rolls along beautifully for the entire track, but then is ruined by the fade out. If you can’t work out how to end a track, shelve it until you can. The fade out is the single worst thing to ever happen to music in my opinion, and no-one will ever change my mind on that!
My second issue is, whilst musically and technically the album is beautifully and very adeptly played and mixed, it lacks a bit of soul. It almost feels like there is an invisible wall of technique between the band and the audience, and they haven’t quite figured out how to get over it to connect with their listeners ‘right in the feels’.
My final issue is that I’m not convinced that the vocals add anything to the experience. They’re ok, they’re nothing ground-breaking, and they have a tendency to feel like a bit of an afterthought.
That said, as a work in its entirety, it does do what it says on the tin. Is it cinematic? Yes. Does it deliver proggy elements? Yes, by the bucket load. Is it accomplished melodically and technically? Yes, it most certainly is. Is it a beautifully balanced instrumentally? Yes. Everything sits in the right place when it comes to instruments.
This is an album that is going to be an acquired taste for many, but if you do like technical instrumental prog, and don’t mind some vocals, you will enjoy it.
01. Elegy Simulacra
03. A Wreath of Temperance
04. Velvet Margin
06. Zero Sum
08. The Ivory Silo
Josh Kay – Guitars and vocals
Jon Damon – Drums
Terran Fernandez – Bass and backing vocals
Avelino Ramirez – Keyboards
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.