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Room; The: Open Fire

I have to admit that I'm a sucker for a band with the confidence, belief and downright ability to straddle the chasms between progressive, melodic and AOR. Few bands try, fewer still manage to make it worth their efforts. The Room have dared, however what marks this Southeast England quintet out as one of the few who succeed, is the sheer believability of the results. The path they've chosen is tightrope thin, however while not yet perfect, seldom is a toe placed a millimetre out of line. Across the nine tracks of debut album Open Fire, what repeatedly strikes you is the amount of heart and soul poured into this music, making for a remarkably engaging experience.

A steady roll round the toms introduces a pompous keyboard exclamation that screams Gregg Giuffria (Angel/Giuffira/House Of Lords), although it is the staccato riff and confident vocal that alludes to the main influence in play here, Saga. Sparse arrangements, stinging guitar jabs and stabbing keys make for an immediately compelling mix and one that grows in quirky charisma with every listen. Add to that some mighty fine chops and within the five minutes or so of opening track "Flesh And Blood", not only have The Room made a memorable impression, they've completely captured your imagination. Singer Martin Wilson unashamedly reminds of Michael Sadler and while at times the likeness can be uncanny, what that means is that he can't half sing - having the ability to draw you into heartfelt lyrics with graceful ease. Open Fire isn't one dimensional though, with "A Multitude Of Angels" strumming in a precise fashion that reminds of "Mystic Rhythms" by Rush, whereas "A Casual Believer" marries early Hogarth era Marillion with an altogether more 80's AOR vibe. While not as smooth, or overly sculpted there's a feel of Cutting Crew or Mr. Mister in evidence, offering up an interestingly commercial, yet never cloying atmosphere. Guitarist Steve Anderson impresses with some sparkling lead work, but it is the thoughtful, spacious way he combines with keyboard player Steve Checkley that makes this a mightily impressive first outing.

An album that more often than not hits home through enigmatic understatement, "ICU" punches through with pinpoint aggression, while the nine minutes of "In The Shadows" veers from keyboard driven pomp, to mature, intelligent AOR via thunderclaps and rain storms. However it is the slow building, expertly crafted "16 Tonnes" that suggests that The Room could be headed for greatness. Confident yet vulnerable vocals play over an acoustic strum and piano backing, while drummer Andrew Rae expertly constructs a tension that becomes almost palpable, before bassist Andy Rowe provides the release you've subconsciously been craving. I kid you not when I say that it is one of the best songs I've heard all year.

As debuts go, Open Fire is an impressive and lasting statement. If you have a love of enigmatic music that merges the boundaries between AOR, prog and melodic rock, then you need to become acquainted with The Room.

Track Listing
1.Flesh and Bone
2. A Casual Believer
3. 16 Tonnes
4. Screaming Through the Noise
5. A Multitude of Angels
6. In the Shadows
7. Behind the Silence
8. The Spark
9. Icu

Added: January 24th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Room Online
Hits: 2899
Language: english

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