Traces is the second album by the British neo-prog band Nine Stones Close, that is to say, if you consider their first CD St Lo (2008) as a band effort. That album came out on an independent label and was actually a solo project of band leader and guitarist Adrian Jones. On this second album, he gathered a real band around him and I have to say, this one really sounds as a band effort. With an amazing vocalist like Marc Atkinson (Mandalaband, Riversea) I can assure you that the vocal qualities of this new band are guaranteed. Other members are keyboardist Brendan Eyre, also from Mandalaband, and bass player Neil Quarrell. Together they produced a perfect and high standard prog rock album. The music is mostly cool, relaxed and atmospheric with many guitar solos in the best Pink Floyd-tradition.
The almost five-minute instrumental opener Reality Check immediately grabs your attention. Opening nice and relaxed, Adrian Jones takes over with his tasteful guitar melodies and guitar riffs, growing to a powerful mid-section. In fact you can regard this song as a long intro for the subsequent Threads. Starting with a smooth Pink Floydish guitar sound, we make acquaintance with the vocal capabilities of Marc Atkinson. His voice has an emotional edge which I appreciate very much. It's very similar to Keith Caputo's voice (Life Of Agony): relaxed, soft and perfect in combination with the fluent guitar sounds. This piece lasting over ten minutes keeps fascinating all the time and you'll be focussed till the last sigh of Marc's brilliant voice. An acoustic guitar indicates Falling To Pieces, another slow starter of which the vocals hold your attention. When the voice becomes softer I noticed that I was listening so intensely that I forgot to breathe. Then, with my longs filled again, the beautiful guitar lightens up just to go down again and the song ends like it started: softly and atmospheric.
The title track contains some more influences; alongside Pink Floyd you hear hints of Porcupine Tree, Marillion and even Camel. On this piece there's more room for the keyboards with a nice interlude, followed by the guitar and a Hammond-sounding keyboard that take you to a mellow end as if you blow out a candle. The remaining Thicker Than Water takes you on a journey for almost fifteen minutes. Emotional vocals and a slow guitar lead to a part with spoken words over a typical solo, than they're shifting gear and the song turns into heavy riffs, solos and a double bass drum. After this powerful eruption, the song ends nice and relaxed.
Traces by Nine Stones Close is an album that grabbed me by the throat owing to a fantastic and tasteful guitar player and a super vocalist. It would be odd if this album doesn't end up in my personal top-10 for this year. Usually I'm pleased with heavy progressive music and guitar fusion, but this is an album that really got me. I think I have to listen to this kind of music more often...
(also read the interview we had with Adrian Jones)
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willlemsen)
Where to buy?
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