After the previous album Pioneers Of The Future (2013, see review) Forest Field returns to the scene with a brand new album. Where on the previous album numerous vocalists guested, this time they've chosen a more simple approach; all vocals are served by US vocalist Phil Vincent, who made his debut for Forest Field on the aforementioned album. Basically the band seems to be a one man project, where Peter Cox provides the music and also is responsible for the instruments. He plays guitar, bass, keyboards and drums and does the programming. On one composition Sue Straw plays flute. Like on the previous album, the songs are divided in instrumental and vocal compositions; the odd numbered songs are instrumental, the even contain vocals.
Let's start with the instrumental ones; normally my preferences go to these kinds of compositions and I was anxious to hear what Peter has come up with this time. In the back of my head I was thinking back on the nice melodic guitar solos I loved. So, yes there is an occasional guitar solo, but mainly the instrumentals are piano/keyboard based, new age influenced soundscapes. The first song; Onwards is combined with the final composition And Upwards, so creating the album title. To me it sounds like a classical influenced Christmas song, minimalistic and purely kept simple. The other instrumentals have a distinctive keyboard sound, which I would define as annoying at points. Even the inspired guitar solos can't lift the music towards a level I expected.
OK, how about the vocal based compositions?
These are also based on piano and keyboards and hailing in the genre of classic rock with slight progressive elements. Phil Vincent's voice has the best sound when he remains in the lower, more comfortable regions. Unfortunately the vocals often find themselves in the higher regions, creating a raspy sound of the kind that was more popular in the eighties than nowadays. I guess as a vocalist in a classic rock tribute band this American vocalist would perfectly fit and at times his voice is quite acceptable, but overall it seems not to be my cup of tea. Some influences of Pink Floyd as well as Manfred Mann occasionally appear.
I was hoping for new elements and a new approach after the previous album, but I am afraid this CD is a sort of continuation of Pioneers Of The Future, never really getting exciting during the vocal-laden tracks and even quite boring during the instrumentals. No. Onwards And Upwards is really not the sort of album I fancy.
On the accompanying info it says the band is proud to mention the album is mixed by Billy Sherwood and the mastering by Maor Appelbaum, but even those names of fame can't change the way I think about this album, too bad.
**+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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