Citizen Cain were originally formed in London in 1982 and even though many critics rated them highly, the band split in 1988. However, soon after a new formation was born that released their official debut album Serpents In Camouflage in 1991. The band weren't happy with the result although the Dutch SI Music label agreed to release it. Their follow-up album Somewhere But Yesterday was released through SI Music as well in 1994. In 1996 the label went bankrupt and since then their albums − Ghost Dance (1996), Raising The Stones (1997) and finally Playing Dead (2002) − were released by the British Cyclops label. After Playing Dead it became quiet around Citizen Cain, until 2012 F2 Records / Festival Music released their comeback album Skies Darken. Moreover, the entire back catalogue of the band will be re-released by Festival Music and that's good news!
The music of Citizen Cain has always been strongly influenced by early Genesis. Sometimes their compositions sounded more like this prog icon than the band itself. Especially the voice of singer Cyrus strongly resembles the voice and timbre of Peter Gabriel's voice. Besides the dominant keyboard parts of Stewart Bell sometimes recall the marvellous playing of Tony Banks. However, it isn't fair to call them a Genesis clone. The music of this Scottish band is much darker and in a way more layered. If I mention Genesis as a strong reference I also have to mention the early line-up of Marillion with Fish, who was also greatly influenced by Genesis. The music of Marillion can be noticed as well on the many Citizen Cain albums which is also the case on the new album. Another subject that has remained on Skies Darken is the Greek mythology that Cyrus uses as an inspiration for his lyrics.
The complicated song structures are still present as well which means that you have to listen to the songs again and again before understanding the whole musical picture. Due to the more aggressive guitar parts of bands like Dream Theater I noticed a new influence in their music. That doesn't mean that I would call Citizen Cain a prog metal band. Certainly not, but the fact remains that the use of aggressive guitar parts increased compared to previous albums. I guess this has something to do with Phil Allen, the new guitarist. His way of playing provides the band a more modern sound which is a big step forward for Citizen Cain, although the Genesis and early Marillion influences can still be heard. In spite of that it took me a while to get through the album since seventy minutes of music is a lot to digest. However, Skies Darken is an album that you have to listen to more than once to see through the beauty of its contents, but if you've reached this stage you really have something special.
I won't mention any song in particular because all the compositions contain high-levelled music. You may wonder whether I have any negative remarks about this album. Well, there are some issues that could have been done better. Firstly the vocals of Cyrus; after a while his voice tends to sound similar on all compositions, and secondly the drum parts created by Stewart Bell. Although it wasn't mentioned in the CD booklet I got the impression that the drums have been programmed on his keyboards or on a drum machine. This implies that mostly the same kind of rhythm patterns can be heard throughout. At first this wasn't a problem but, just like the vocals, I was longing for something different after seventy minutes. Therefore I would like to hear a real drummer and some more variation in the vocals on their next album.
Skies Darken shows a band in full evolution despite the gap of ten years between this album and their previous one. The artistic progression that Citizen Cain have made is evident, so the future brightly smiles. They recorded a great new album and besides their entire back catalogue had been re-released. Who could ask for more? Skies Darken is highly recommended to people who fancy the early albums of Genesis and Marillion.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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