Some bands do make it hard to review them, just for the information you get before even having heard one single song of the band in question. Ashby is one of those bands; their debut album Fragmental is the result of an intensive crowdfunding campaign, something I am not a great fan of. Second; is the information, vocalist Sabina Moser drew a lot of attention in her homeland Germany by participating in “The Voice of Germany” and withdrew just before the finals. To me any “Voice/Idols” kind of show is not interesting and only putting a lot of wannabe's on the music market.
So, that's my first opinion without even hearing one single note. I hope Ashby can convince me wrong by delivering a small masterpiece with Fragmental. Besides the aforementioned vocalist, Ashby consists of guitar player Jan Göpelt, keyboardist Joel von der Heiden, bass player Christopher Streidt and drummer Rik Schindler. Musically, Fragmental is a keyboard-orientated album; keyboards that differ from cool piano sections, like in the ballad Pax, to nice synthesizer soloing in the epic Aether - A Lunar Year to bombastic parts during A Question Never Heard. As a counterpart to these nice progressive rock related sounds we get the fine grooves of drums, combined with heavy guitar lines, emphasizing the metallic element in Ashby's music. Holy Water is a nice sample of the way both guitar and keyboards work together. Composition-wise the album is pretty varied, with epic compositions, long extended instrumental parts and a female voice. I guess the German fans will totally go bananas, when it comes to Sabina's vocal efforts. With reason, Sabina is German and she does sound German. Klaus Meine German. Not a big deal, but after several sessions it just gets on my nerves a bit. Sabina does not have the typical female voice-she is tough, rough and distinctive. It's a voice you might have to get used to. As a reference, she has some similarities with Sandra Nasic, vocalist for Guano Apes. But when you dig deeper into the music, the album is quite a nice experience. The virtuoso instrumental parts are very pleasing and perfectly played. Highlights are the opener The Faceless And The Shore and the aforementioned Holy Water.
Do I have to give up my first opinion? I would say, yes, a bit. Without crowdfunding we would not have been able to listen to this nice album which could please a lot of progressive rock fans. But regarding “The Voice”, the show is crap, but helped to shine a light on Ashby's music.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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