This Winter Machine -
A Tower Of Clocks

(CD 2019, 61:05, Festival Music)

The tracks:
  1- Herald(8:48)
  2- Flying(3:31)
  3- Spiral(2:17)
  4- Symmetry & Light(7:29)
  5- Justified(4:39)
  6- In Amber(3:57)
  7- The Hunt(7:22)
  8- Delta(8:26)
  9- When We Were Young(5:16)
10- Carnivale(9:10)

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The six-piece band This Winter Machine formed in mid-2016, hailing from the wonderful medieval UK city Yorkshire. After a series of ads led to jams, these quickly turned into writing sessions. Members have shared a stage with known bands and artists, from Marillion and Uriah Heep to Tim'Ripper' Owens, Magnum and Uli Jon Roth. The debut album The Man Who Never Was was released early 2017 (see review), resulting in a widespread critical acclaim, and a great response from the public. This Winter Machine was nominated in the Best Newcomers category at the Classic Rock Society annual awards, which the band won in 2018, and have also been included in many 'Names To Watch' lists for 2017/18. In 2018 the band started the writings and recordings for its second album, a concept, finally released in 2019.

Listening to A Tower Of Clocks, the bands second album, is (again) stepping into the realm of the Neo-prog, especially the Eighties sound of Marillion, Pendragon and Pallas. The band delivers a fine variety: from ballads to mid-tempo beats and sumptuous eruptions, embellished with tasteful work on keyboards and guitars, and topped with pleasant vocals (from tender to powerful). The 10 songs range between 2 and 10 minutes, two are instrumentals, like the strong opener Herald featuring sparkling synthesizer flights and wonderful dreamy piano runs).

My highlights:

Symmetry & Light (7:29) : It starts with slightly distorted vocals, Steve Rothery-like guitar, soaring strings, slow rhythm and spacey synthesizer flights. Halfway a more AOR oriented sound delivering powerful vocals, guitar and drums, then an exciting break with rock guitar and pitch bend driven synthesizer, I love this bombastic Neo-prog sound.

Justified (4:39) : This is a ballad, it contains dreamy piano and warm vocals, the distinctive bass pedals, in a slow rhythm, halfway a strong early Marillion atmosphere with howling guitar and sensitive piano.

In Amber (3:57) : Another wonderful ballad: dreamy piano and vocals (strong emotional undertone) and soaring strings, in a melancholy climate.

Delta (8:26) : An alternating epic composition, first featuring soaring string and bass pedals. Then a bombastic mid-tempo with powerful vocals, propulsive guitar riffs, tight beat, flashy synthesizer flights. Halfway tender piano and vocals, sensitive electric guitar runs, and warm vocals. Finally a strong build-up to the closing section with propulsive drums and a moving electric guitar solo.

And finally Carnivale (9:10), an epic composition. The intro contains a waltz-like rhythm, then tender piano runs and sensitive guitar, followed by a bombastic eruption with bass pedals. Next acoustic rhythm guitar and warm vocals, soft synthesizer flights and howling guitar, then a bombastic eruption and powerful vocals, I notice a lot of tension in the music. The music turns into a mid-tempo with rock guitar riffs and sparkling piano play, halfway becoming dreamy with twanging guitar and soft synthesizer flights. The tension builds, gradually the music becomes more and more bombastic and compelling. The work on guitar and keyboards is captivating, the bass pedals are an excellent bonus. The final part features a mellow atmosphere with twanging guitar (evoking early Marillion) and dreamy vocals, then wonderful piano, howling guitar, and a bombastic eruption with bass pedals and strong vocals, topped with fiery guitar work. Finally tender piano and acoustic guitar, this is the band in its full splendor, wow!

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

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