With much fanfare comes the latest album from the "still ticking" King Crimson. The Power to Believe shows that Robert Fripp and company still have what it takes to be major players in the prog universe, and can no doubt teach all the youngsters a thing or two as well. While much of this CD tends to sound similar to other material the band has recorded in the last 8 years, it is played with such skill and conviction that you have to overlook the obvious similarities.
Tunes like "Elektrik" and "Level Five" are awesome displays of technical prowess from the entire band. Comprised of intricate, weaving lines from Fripp, Adrian Belew, and Trey Gunn that mix grace, power, and aggression, this is unmistakably King Crimson. "Elektrik" especially segues from complex unison lines to savage power chords; ultimately back again to the intricate melody, all the while drummer Pat Mastelotto flails away at his drum kit with gentle precision. The vocal tracks on the CD work better than on the bands last release, The ConstruKction of Light. "Facts of Life" is a brutally heavy number that would probably appeal to fans of Tool, who King Crimson toured with recently, and "Eyes Wide Open" features a Belew vocal that is one of his most melodic and emotional. It's also perhaps the catchiest song the band has recorded in years. "Happy With What You Have to Be Happy With" is another grinding rocker, featuring a Beatles influenced vocal from Belew, plus slashing guitar work from both he and Fripp.
I'm a little up in the air about whether to cast off the four-part title track (which is spread out around the CD) as mere filler or not. Much of these pieces are aimless ambient/electronic soundscapes, which occasionally lend themselves to some interesting bass or stick work from Gunn or loud guitar solos from Fripp or Belew. More often though they come across like a failed attempt at updating "The Talking Drum." At roughly 15 minutes worth, I am left wondering whether they could have used that time to record another song, and combined these pieces into a single trimmed down track. Regardless of that minor complaint, this is still a very good release from these prog mainstays. While it would be nice to see the band moving into a somewhat different direction, the fact that they are staying on a similar path as they have the past few years will do just fine. At least we still have them!