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Touchstone: The City Sleeps

Touchstone is definitely one of the most sensational acts on the modern progressive rock scene these days. Wintercoast was massively progressive and expressive, yet incredibly catchy and full of intelligent mass appeal. The follow-up album The City Sleeps is, fortunately, characterized by the exact same qualities that made its predecessor such a great album.

On The City Sleeps Touchstone explore further their quite unique metal- and hardrock-infused brand of progressive rock. The album starts out with the quite massive sounding 'Corridors' whose initial eastern touches gives it a dark and exotic feel, while the rest of the tune is rich in melodic and haunting guitar figures and pumping hard rocking bass patterns and grand keyboard effects. The following track, the massively epic 'When Shadows Fall', retains the darkness, but takes the listener on an even grander journey through lots of moods and sounds - from grandiose, almost symphonic passages over retro-prog sections and mellow passages to all out chucking guitar-centered hardrock figures. And this particular track, along with the equally massive and epic title track, is pretty much indicative of the overall sound and variation of this album.

Being the rock dude I am, I really appreciate how Touchstone incorporate hardrock and all out metal riffage into their brand of progressive rock, as in the balls out rocker 'These Walls' or 'Good Boy Psycho', which is more of a progressive metal track, and juxtapose them with more mellow and melodic tunes, like the top class prog ballad 'Half Moon Meadow'. And we are not only talking juxtaposition of tracks; most of the individual tunes on this album contain both ripping metal riffage and soft sections as well as more retro prog parts (and often the different elements co-occur on top of each other).

There seems to be somewhat of a Genesis-influence on this album (the keyboards particularly seem inspired by Duke, while 'When Shadows Fall' reminds me of 'Dance on a Volcano' from A Trick of the Tail. And, I quite like that. I like the idea of Genesis-style elements co-occurring with all out metal attacks. It's this blend of elements from across the progressive rock and metal scenes that makes Touchstone's sound so appealing (to me at least).

The musicianship is top notch as is the song writing, and Kim Sevoir's silken voice fits into the picture like a glove. Fans of progressive music can look forward to Genesis-like keys, odd time signatures, epic songs, complex song structures and so on, and fans of metal can loo forward to hardrocking riffage, pumping bass, double bass drums, guitar harmonies and so on. Essentially, this is a progressive metal album, or perhaps a metal progressive album... in any case, it should appeal to fans of progressive rock as well as fans of progressive metal.

The City Sleeps is simply sensational. Should you be a fand of strong potent riffage and massively epic and expressive progressive music, buy this album now or spend the rest of your life in regret.

Track listing:
1. Corridors
2. When Shadows Fall
3. These Walls
4. Throw Them To The Sky
5. Sleeping Giants
6. Good Boy Psycho
7. Horizons
8. Half Moon Meadow
9. The City Sleeps
10. Corridors Epiphany (Instrumental)

Added: April 15th 2012
Reviewer: Kim Jensen
Related Link: Touchstone official website
Hits: 4054
Language: english

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Touchstone: The City Sleeps
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-04-15 22:43:03
My Score:

The City Sleeps, released in 2011, is the third studio release from the UK band Touchstone. Their last studio album Wintercoast was excellent and the same can be said of their most recent offering.

Touchstone play a brand of British rock that combines elements of classic rock, AOR and metal wrapped with a shroud of progressiveness that should have many music fans clamouring for more. What really strikes me about this band are the outstanding melodies and arrangements that seem to come naturally to this talented group of musicians. They have planted so many earworms from their first two albums I've lost count and was hoping that trend continues with The City Sleeps. Well, I am happy to say The City Sleeps does not disappoint in the slightest and may in fact be their strongest offering yet.

If you are looking for wildly adventurous music, Touchstone will not be the band for you but if you like your rock music with lots of keys, soaring guitar and an overall proggy vibe this will satisfy quite nicely. Special mention should also be made of the lead vocals as both Kim Seviour and Rob Cottingham do a great job. What I like most is the fact that both vocalists stay within themselves and never try to do too much, staying within their range and offering plenty of melodic moments.

All the songs are very good but if I had to pick some highlights "Corridors" with its Eastern themed guitar work and melodic keys and the super catchy "When Shadows Fall" showcasing the band's penchant for dynamic song structure and great vocals immediately jump out. Other notables include the excellent musicianship in "Good Boy Psycho" featuring tight prog metal rhythms and the deliciously catchy vocal arrangement in "Horizons".

Perhaps the finest moment may be the eleven plus minute title track where the band shows its flair for the dramatic with tons of scrumptious prog metal/rock riffage, great duet style vocals and stellar keyboard/piano melodies. As the vocals soar and the riffs soak in the melody takes hold and never lets go. The narration at the midway point may not be for everyone but it is well done and does not detract from the flow of the song. Guest musician John Mitchell offers a soaring guitar solo at the song's end, a fitting finale to be sure.

The City Sleeps is a fantastic offering from Touchstone with many memorable moments, stellar arrangements and just plain great songs. If you like bands like Kansas, Styx and Panic Room Touchstone is the band for you.

Touchstone: The City Sleeps
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-12-07 18:40:15
My Score:

It used to be the norm that bands had a specific sound, intrinsically linked to them and the style of music they portrayed. Genesis sounded like Genesis, no matter the era of the band, Iron Maiden could only be Iron Maiden and you were hardly liable to confuse Yes, AC/DC, King Crimson or Deep Purple for anyone other than themselves. However as the Prog and Metal genres have widened, deepened, separated, blurred and separated again, oddly whole fistfuls of bands have become happy to ape the "leader of the pack" and fit into a well worn, particularly safe box neatly marked with a genre tag. The fact that in this day and age UK Progressive Rockers/Metallers Touchstone dare to sound like no one else other than Touchstone (yes they show their influences, but not overtly) is a reason to celebrate. However when you factor in that Touchstone sound magnificent as they plough their individual furrow makes their existence all the more exciting. I'm not claiming that they have created a new genre, or that what they serve up is startlingly innovative (far from it actually), however this is a band who are certainly not content to tick the Prog, Metal or Rock boxes and be done with it, oh no!

The sublime combination of the voices of Kim "Elkie" Seviour and Rob Cottingham, makes for varied and compelling focal point for Touchstone, but it really is the stunningly melodic, yet atmosphere and passion infused keyboards of Cottingham and the biting guitar work courtesy of Adam Hodgson that really sets The City Sleeps alight with varied and eclectic themes and passages. Tying Touchstone to Prog, Metal or Rock is always reassuringly difficult and TCS is no exception, with bulging riffs happily sitting alongside pompous keyboards and precise, intricate sections of multi instrumental and vocal interplay. It all makes for a heady mix of ever changing moods and atmosphere, resulting in an album that keeps you completely riveted from start to finish and which grows with stature with every subsequent listen. In fact as all the best albums do, The City Sleeps needs a little time to mature in your head, before suddenly slapping you round the chops with its subtle intensity and brash refinement.

Whether they are keeping things simple, or weaving meandering paths of intrigue, Touchstone have the ability to build their songs into unabashed, good old Hard Rock, or nuanced Progressive music as the mood takes them. Most impressive however is that both (and indeed other) aspects of the band's approach make the same long lasting impact.

Touchstone are an act capable of appealing to a huge cross section of the Rock and Progressive community and with The City Sleeps they have made an album that really hits home every time. I can only echo the sentiments of my fellow SoT writer Kim Jensen (above) and urge you to buy this album. You won't be disappointed!

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