South American act Aisles impressed the hell out of us back in 2014 with their opus 4:45 AM, a moody yet melodic slice of progressive/art rock, and once again they've given us another strong one with their latest & fourth release Hawaii. Somewhat of a concept album spread across two CDs (though I'm not sure why as the total length is under 80 minutes), this is a charming package from this Chilean band, housed in a lovely digipack adorned with awesome artwork and full lyrics.
Musically, it's an extension of their last few albums, which is a blend of melodic neo-prog as well as some jazz-fusion influences, though I'd say the mood is a 'bit' more upbeat than 4:45 AM. The opening two-part suite of "The Poet" features some strong vocals courtesy of Sebastián Vergara, as well as dueling guitar & keyboard exchanges from the trio of Rodrigo Sepúlveda (Guitars), Germán Vergara (Guitars), and Juan Pablo Gaete (Keyboards). Just lovely stuff, and you instantly get echoes of Marillion, Echolyn, and Pendragon floating around in your head. The lush "Year Zero" brings to mind mid-'70s Genesis with its gentle guitar strums, keyboard washes, and poignant vocals, while the piano driven rocker "Upside Down" kicks things up a notch, not only delivering another great vocal from Vergara but a slew of tasty guitar solos. Closing out Disc 1, or Side 1, is the epic "CH-7", as Vergara channels the great Steve Hogarth or Marillion fame with his heartfelt vocal performance, the band slowly building around him with some rich tapestries and quirky melodies. Again, classic Marillion as well as Genesis instantly comes to mind.
The story of how the human race must rebuild after obliteration continues on Side 2 with the lovely "Terra", as gentle keyboard washes and subtle guitar allow Vergara to croon over the top, which gives way to the melodic "Pale Blue Dot". There are some really nice vocal melodies on this one, supported by crisp guitar riffs and bubbling synths, which contrasts with the almost folk/pop feel of its successor "Still Alive". The centerpiece of this second disc however is the prog/fusion workout that is "Club Hawaii", an upbeat rocker with plenty of tricky musical passages that sees guitar,keyboards, and drums laying down some impressive lines, with drummer Felipe Candia & bassist Daniel Baird-Kerr showing what a truly exceptional rhythm section they truly are. The melancholy "In the Probe" closes things out with lilting guitar strains, atmospheric keys, and Vergara's aching vocals, not quite closing out Hawaii with a bang, but it does the trick.
That last statement pretty much sums up my only gripe with Hawaii, in that I feel the band could have taken advantage of some of the more uptempo moments and really built on them, especially on the second disc, which sort of fell back into the moody elements that were prevalent throughout 4:45 AM. Granted, Aisles perform within that framework VERY well, so perhaps that's just their thing, but I think they also have a lot more to offer other than just low key, melancholy prog rock, and it would have been nice to see the variety of moods spread out a little better here. Still, there's no denying the class that reeks throughout this album, so it's easy to recommend to any fan of melodic modern prog, and it will be interesting to see where they take us next time.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. The Poet Part I: Dusk (10:06)
2. The Poet Part II: New World (4:18)
3. Year Zero (4:36)
4. Upside Down (4:53)
5. CH-7 (12:33)
6. Terra (8:03)
7. Pale Blue Dot (9:53)
8. Still Alive (4:46)
9. Nostalgia (2:11)
10. Club Hawaii (7:22)
11. Falling (2:11)
12. In The Probe (6:53)