As a reviewer, I have the opportunity to listen to many new releases. Of course, I donít get everything in my mailbox, so every now and then I miss certain albums. However, sometimes I get a second chance. That happened to me with the debut album Half Way Home from the British band DeeExpus Project. This album has been released in 2008, but unfortunately, Background Magazine didnít get a copy to review. After the release of their first DVD Far From Home one year later, I found out that DeeExpus Project was well worth listening too (see review). A Polish acquaintance helped me to get more familiar with their music and a year after the release of Half Way Home I finally got a copy from the band to review.
While recording the album, DeeExpus was still a project and the brainchild of Andy Ditchfield (guitars, keyboards) and Tony Wright (lead vocals). They came across at the local well and started to record songs in a tiny studio supported by a couple of friends. They helped them to create an album that contains an hour of fantastic progressive rock music. Right from the start, you can hear that Steven Wilson and his band Porcupine Tree have been a big influence for Andy. He plays the same kind of guitar solos, grooves and riffs. The opening tune Greed and PTtee are good examples. Well, the latter must be a Porcupine Tree-pastiche if you look at the song title. According to the band, the song is a fan tribute to Porcupine Tree, but the album has also several other influences. On Pointless Child, we recognize the musical style of Marillion and It Bites and even hints from Iron Maiden at the end of One Eight. Andy Ditchfield knows how to write a great up-tempo song and he has the talents to write relaxed and mellow pieces as well. For instance, take the short track One Day. This is a wonderful instrumental piece dominated by the acoustic piano and acoustic guitar. Itís an intro to Seven Nights, another great song. However, for me the highlight on the album is the title track. This epic lasts for seventeen minutes and is an excellent piece to finish an album. It contains all the strong elements in the music of DeeExpus: great guitar and keyboards playing by Andy Ditchfield and the strong voice of Tony Wright, who gets all the room to show that heís a fantastic singer. The name of Ray Wilson (ex-Genesis) came to my mind continuously. Both singers own the same sensitive and emotional voice.
I think the writing and recording sessions for the new album The King Of Number 33 have already started. I expect their second album to be as strong as Half Way Home. I sincerely hope this time that I get a promo to review just after the release and not a year later. Until that time, Half Way Home will make many spins in my CD-player. My advice to all prog heads: check out DeeExpus, because theyíre one of the best new bands of 2009.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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