The third release from the UK's Thieves' Kitchen marks somewhat of a change for the band. Singer Amy Darby joins the group, and with her comes a jazzier style that mixes well with the symphonic prog bombast that Thieves' Kitchen has become known for. Her emotional, jazzy vocals soar over the intricate melodies and arrangements conjured up by the other members, with the key instruments being electric piano, Mellotron, organ, and guitar.
Comprised of six songs, you can be rest assured that the band gets to fire off plenty of musical muscle throughout this CD. The opening tune "The Picture Slave" has a strong jazz fusion feel thanks to some bouncy electric piano and gorgeous laid back vocals from Darby. It's not all jazz however, as the middle section contains some serious guitar/keyboard exchanges, in addition to tons of Mellotron. Guitarist Phil Mercy is a fluid player, and his rock and fusion licks are all over the symphonic "De Profundis", a lengthy tune that also features thick organ and Mellotron courtesy of Wolfgang Kindl. His intricate synth lines and orchestrations on the proggy "Cardinal Red", intertwining with Mercy's gymnastic guitar solos, will remind instantly of the classic band UK. Darby's vocals nicely break the bombast, and the busy rhythm work of bassist Andy Bonham and drummer Mark Robotham hold things together nicely on this impressive piece. "Spiral Bound" is a somber number highlighted by Darby's yearning vocals and Kindl's majestic piano, and is the CD's shortest piece, while "Chovihani Rise" is a sprawling tune that harkens back to the glory days of Genesis, complete with mounds of Mellotron and melodic guitar passages dripping with tone. There's plenty of complex interpley between all the instruments on this epic, and it is easily the highlight of the CD. The heavier "Surface Tension" rounds out this fine CD, with chunky guitar riffs, ominous Mellotron, and symphonic synth arrangements.
Upon the first few listens, Shibboleth took a little getting used to, especially in the vocal department, but I think in the long run a female singer actually fits better with the style of music the band is creating. This is classy, epic music, from a consistent band who have found a little jazz leanings to go along with their brand of complex prog rock. Recommended!