This Winter Machine -
The Clockwork Man

(CD 2023, 50:13, White Knight Records)

The tracks:
  1- The River (Parts 1 & 2)(11:18)
  2- Solitude, Silence And Steam(8:18)
  3- Final Goodbye(2:56)
  4- Change(5:42)
  5- Reflections(5:07)
  6- Nothing Lasts Forever(6:08)
  7- The Light(3:51)
  8- Falling Through A Hole In The Sky(7:31)

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The Clockwork Man is the fourth studio album by UK melodic proggers, This Winter Machine. The band has had several recent personnel changes, but this album gives notice that the current line-up has upped their game on this compelling album.

Its concept is based on a steampunk and dystopian future, illustrated musically with modern day themes.

A chiming clock and staccato synth with a wash of atmospherics and resonant guitar start opener and longest track The River. It twists and turns like a river as the sound builds. A significant change of pace occurs halfway through when a sombre piano alters the mood, Al Winter's doomy vocals relaying vivid, reflective lyrics. A gorgeous rich guitar passage from Ade Fisher (Stuckfish) comes in, taking the song in another fascinating direction.
A moody bass against the sound of rain starts Solitude, Silence And Steam, the guitar again making a huge statement in the soundscape of synths and hypnotic beat. That guitar is back heavier and darker when Winter's voice reappears.
Throbbing bass and insistent riff characterise Final Goodbye which fittingly ends with the sound of a noisy social gathering.

Change is the pivotal track, a heavier, more classical rock track with Andre Saint guesting on vocals, bringing great intensity to the sound. A fantastic recurring intermittent riff comes in and out - change indeed!
Instrumental Reflections has a touch of Rush about it through its solid, rockier groove.
On Nothing Lasts Forever, Winter's voice has a poignant yearning and sadness, over muted guitar and keyboards with the backing vocals to the fore. Keyboards player Leigh Perkins makes an appearance on whistle that almost sounds like a duduk. It finally ends instrumentally just as it began.
Ballad The Light is another softer piano-led combination with spiritually charged lyrics.
Fell Through A Hole In The Sky ends the album on a high note, this being a seeming meditation on life with the stand-out line: “In the end, all we have is our feelings”. The intricacy of the track makes it feel a lot longer than it is. It packs a lot in including some gorgeous ringing guitar from John Cook as the song builds to a huge climax. The bell chimes that started the album bring it all to a very satisfying conclusion.

Thoughtful and beautifully presented, it will be interesting to see how these songs sound live.

**** Alison Reijman

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