Man, this is gorgeous stuff...the latest release from Santiago, Chile based progressive rock band Aisles, titled 4:45 AM, delivers exactly what you would want from a modern day prog/neo-prog group that likes to explore the more emotional side of the spectrum. In my view, this is the kind of material that veterans Marillion SHOULD be creating, as opposed to the watered down, somewhat boring stuff they have been churning out for well over a decade. Aisles' last album, 2009s In Sudden Walks was an enjoyable, refreshing take on the lush, romantic side of the prog spectrum, and they've taken that one step further here on 4:45 AM.
First, let me state that 4:45 AM is not your normal slice of vibrant, upbeat progressive rock. No, much of this album is quite moody & melancholy, but dripping with emotion. Things start off on a high note with the catchy and bouncy title track, a perfect combination of prog-rock instrumentation with pop hooks, and a great lead in to the album. Yearning guitar & keyboards sweep you away on the tender "Gallarda Yarura", a very pleasing instrumental that leads into the '80s sounds of "Shallow and Daft", a tune about the demise of radio that reminds of a mix between Saga, Yes, and new wave/synth pop. The band rocks hard on the driving "Back my Strength", but throws in some dark atmosphere, with Sebastian Vergara sounding not unlike Marillion's Steve Hogarth. Germán Vergara's lush acoustic guitar tones support Sebastian's pained, heart tugging vocals on the emotional "The Sacrifice", and it's at this point on the album that the tone really starts to take a turn. Two instrumentals follow, "The Ship" and "Intermission" follow, with the latter having some nice guitar layers and popping bass lines, which then segues into the poignant "Sorrow", a Latin styled acoustic number with some strong male & female vocals. Not a happy tune by any means, but some really catchy melodies. The haunting instrumental "Hero", complete with sumptuous keyboards and tasty guitar licks, allows Aisles to dip into their Marillion/Genesis/Yes bag of tricks, before launching into the closing number "Melancholia". This near 11-minute track is as lush as prog gets, and features some really lovely guitar textures and emotional vocals. For some though the tone of this one might be a tad depressing, but the feel of the song (and the album in general) follows the lyrical imagery quite closely, so it all ties in together.
Definitely not a CD to pop on at your next Saturday night party, 4:45 AM nonetheless is a very impressive, melodic, but at the same time dark and melancholic modern progressive rock album. Best taken all at once, it's an album with many rewards despite not being a very 'happy' listen.
2. Gallarda Yarura
3. Shallow and Daft
4. Back my Strength
5. The Sacrifice
6. The Ship