In 2011 I was rather positive about the debut album of The Inner Road, two British musicians who also participate in a band called Coalition. The difference between both acts is the lacking of a singer by The Inner Road. On the album Visions (2011, see review) instruments like guitars and keyboards are in charge producing very strong neo-progressive rock tunes that never get bored. I advised people who mostly enjoy the music recorded by bands as Pallas, IQ and Pendragon to check out this album. My only negative remark was that the drum parts sounded somewhat casually from time to time. The main reason was that they came out of a machine instead of being played by a musician of flesh and blood.
This was also the case on In Search Of Forever (2012, see review), the latest album by Coalition. The drum parts on this record lacked variety as well. For that reason I advised both bands to use a real drummer for their upcoming releases. Now two years later Ascension, the second album by The Inner Road has appeared. On this new album Steve Gresswell (keyboards, drums, bass, orchestrations) is still present, but his musical companion Phil Braithwaite is no longer around to play the guitars. His place has been taken by Jay Parmar, who played all the guitar and sitar parts. However, this line-up change didn't have any influence on the sound or style of The Inner Road on Ascension. The kind of music the duo made on their first effort has largely remained intact.
The keyboard parts still sound rather symphonic. It seems as if a real violinist performs on a number of tracks and sometimes it sounds as if Rick Wakeman has joined the band because I heard the same kind of Moog solos as he played on his solo albums and as a member of Yes. However, the Mellotron sound has often similarities with the sound of this marvellous keyboard wizard. So I have to compliment Steve Gresswell for providing the album a wonderful seventies sound. The new guitarist Jay Parmar leaves his marks on the entire album as well. Knowing that Parmar has recorded several albums for Steve Vai's Digital Nations label, it's no surprise that the same kind of music can be heard on a number of compositions. But also Joe Satriani must have been an inspiration for Mr. Parmar.
All these influences provide this second album a heavier sound compared to their debut, although Jay Parmar plays rather melodic parts as well. Especially the mellower and more laid-back pieces suit his way of playing the most. Together with the great keyboard parts The Inner Road make sure that there's enough to enjoy on Ascension. Unfortunately Mr. Gresswell apparently didn't read my negative remarks concerning the drum parts. They still sound too simple with lack of variety. They often sound alike as a result of which the strong compositions lose quality. This really is a shame because these pieces don't deserve that! They need better drum parts played by an experienced musician.
People who enjoyed the first album of The Inner Road can buy this second one as well, even without listening. You will enjoy some fantastic neo-progressive rock, but you have to be aware of the fact that some serious metal parts have been included on Ascension as well.
***- Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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