Final Conflict -
The Rise Of The Artisan

(CD 2020, 61:50, Gaolhouse Records Gaol CD04)

The tracks:
  1- The Rise Of The Artisan(9:15)
  2- Life #1(5:06)
  3- A Clockwork Echo(6:30)
  4- Stop & Stare(5:59)
  5- A River Of Dreams(5:37)
  6- 4 Domains(5:47)
  7- This Pulse(7:38)
  8- Lights(6:01)
  9- The Door(5:26)
10- Breaking The Cycle(4:31)

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This UK Neo-prog formation was founded in 1985 by singer Brian Donkin and singer/guitarist Andy Lawton. Two years later the band released its debut entitled Channel 8 (a demo tape), in 1989 followed by The Time Has Arrived (also as a demo tape). In 1992 Final Conflict released the album Redress The Balance, my first musical encounter with the band. I even witnessed Final Conflict in the legendary Dutch venue Paradiso in Amsterdam during a SI Music triple-concert (in September 1992), with Dutch formation Wings Of Steel and fellow UK band Galahad. One year later Final Conflict released Quest. Then the band kept on releasing albums but with long breaks: Stand Up (see review) in 1997, Hindsight in 2003, Simple in 2006, the release of Final Conflict its first live DVD and CD entitled Another Moment In Time (see review, recorded in the very Neo-prog friendly country Poland) in 2009, Return Of The Artisan (see review) in 2012 and recently The Rise Of The Artisan (2020). This is the second part of a trilogy, 'The Artisan' is a character struggling in a world dominated by mercenary and financially based decision makers. Meanwhile long-time drummer Chris Moyden died in 2005, due to a long lasting disease, his loss was a great blow to Final Conflict, both personally and musically.

Over the last 35 years Final Conflict have gigged extensively both in the UK and abroad, and continue to generate an increasingly substantial fan base both in the live arena and through their back catalogue. Its success was acknowledged in 2007, when they were nominated in 5 categories at The Classic Rock Society's BOTY awards. They were voted second best band and also received rave reviews for their powerful live shows. In 2008, at the same awards, they were presented with the MD's award by Steve Hackett of Genesis.

I was very curious to this album (featuring founding members Donkin and Lawton) because I haven't listened to Final Conflict since Redress The Balance and Quest, and because its music is way more appreciated after these two albums. The precursor The Return Of The Artisan is even considered as the band its best work, so high expectations! Well, during my first listening session I notice that this Final Conflict sounds 'a million miles' more interesting, dynamic and elaborate than the Final Conflict I know from the 1991 and 1992 albums. A strong point is the colouring of the music by the guitars and keyboards, in almost every composition these instruments add a special flavour. Like a spacey synthesizer solo and a fiery guitar solo in A Clockwork Echo. Pink Floyd kind of guitar parts in Stop & Stare, a pitchbend driven synthesizer solo and fiery guitar in the hypnotizing 4 Domains. Catchy piano runs with strong vocals in This Pulse. And lush Hammond organ and mellow vocals in the final song Breaking The Cycle (post Roger Waters Pink Floyd atmosphere).

My highlight is the titletrack. First sound effects, then a tight beat with a bombastic sound delivering powerful organ and guitar riffs, no doubt, this is the realm of Neo-prog (with hints from Pallas). Next a mellow part with piano and tender vocals, gradually the music turns more lush featuring sultry keyboard sound, pleasant vocals and powerful guitar riffs. After a mellow part with a dreamy Floydian synthesizer solo and moving electric guitar solo, finally a slow rhythm with melancholy vocals, culminating in a bombastic conclusion with a compelling guitar solo.

***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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