A fairly new band, the Reading-based I Am The Manic Whale has been creating progressive rock since 2015. They are: Ben Hartley (drums, percussion and vocals), David Addis (guitars and vocals), John Murphy (keyboard and vocals), Michael Whiteman (bass, vocals, keyboards, guitars and drums) and Ella Lloyd playing flute.
Opener Open Your Eyes opens with wonderful howling guitar that reminds me of Andy Latimer and I think especially of the great Stationary Traveller (1984) album. This is neo prog as it should be. The melodic start launches into a heavier, fast-paced part that somehow reminds me of Kayak. The music is nicely layered, good use of harmony vocals and in general well-crafted. I also sense some It Bites (Once Around The World , 1988) here. Thumbs up all around!
After that fabulous opener the 9 minute Pages doesn't quite manage to sweep us along in the same way and at first feels flatter and less engaging. Then there is this wonderful symphonic dreamy middle-part with flute, piano, fuzzy guitar.
Princess Strange deals with digital mobbing. The song has an enjoyable melody, but I find the lyrics (well-meant as it is, and definitely an important subject that is important to be aware of) rather clumsy (as is the wo-oh-oh filling) and I'm pretty sure that it will tire quickly and age pretty badly. Still, the music is wonderful and I especially love the triumphant ending. But the lyrics make me cringe every single time I hear it and I tend to skip the song because of that, which is a shame.
Much better is the 16 and a half epic Circles that first has dramatic instrumental parts with organ and dark-ish guitar. When the vocals set in, I am again reminded of Kayak-meets-It Bites. A true highlight!
Clock Of The Long Now starts with some nice harmony vocals that spontaneously reminds me of that hit by Münchener Freiheit (the title just escaped me, sorry) then treats us to floating keyboards. Then the piece launches in some loose jazz-rock. Electric piano and loose percussions. I love it. Then we get a wonderfully symphonic part with Yes and Flower Kings references and superb use of various singers. Then we get a fantastic finale. Replay. And once more!
The over 21 minutes long ending piece Derelict includes a jazzy part and a lot to feast on if you are a neo prog fan, especially the wonderful keyboard (and guitar) instrumental part from around 5 minutes onward. Around 11 minutes into the piece there is a dreamy part with flute and acoustic guitars and gentle keys. To nag a bit - part of the melody of the middle part reminds me of that lame War Is Over song by John Lennon.
A truly enjoyable album. I hope they redo Princess Strange with new lyrics. Apart from those, this ranks among the top albums of the year. Looking forward to hear more from this band.
**** Carsten Busch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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