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Elephants Of Scotland: Execute And Breathe

Keen to build on the hugely positive reception their debut album Home Away From Home received, Vermont's Elephants Of Scotland return with album number two, the beautifully packaged and wonderfully named Execute And Breathe. "A Different Machine" fires the album into life, the hallmarks which made HAFH one of last year's most captivating releases immediately in evidence. Surging keyboards boost stinging guitars; somehow still leaving enough room for the vocals to add sparkling touches and idiosyncrasies as they do. Bassist Dan MacDonald, who takes lead vocals here, and drummer Ornan McLean focusing the song through intricate, although not overly indulgent patterns which bring colour without dazzling. "The Other Room" adds a poppier sheen, synth man Adam Rabin stepping up to the mic on this occasion, revealing and revelling in an ethos which underpins much of best work EofS create. An easy relaxed vibe thriving through undoubtedly Progressive themes that simply feel no need to shove overt musicianship down your throat; even while leaving no doubt that these guys can seriously play.

The album's sing along arrives in the shape of "Amber Waves", a wash of melancholy somehow lifting the spirit, as lilting guitar lines pushing to the forefront, classy keys work rushing into earshot in between times, even reminding of Vangelis during an acoustic guitar and rolling tom breakdown. Guitarist John Whyte takes ownership of lead vocals for the atmospheric slide of "TFAY", the sounds of an alien orchestra limbering up giving way to militaristic snare pulses before the most urgent song of the journey so far ups the tempo and intensity. Interestingly while MacDonald (2 songs), Rabin (3) and Whyte (2) share the lead vocals almost equally, the variance is a gentle one, the trio all having similarish voices and attacks, yet being unique enough for the ear to still pick them all out. Truth be told, none of them are the best singers Prog will ever hear, yet in the grand tradition of the genre, it is their ability to tell the album's stories that makes their performances vital to their surrounds.

"Boxless" has a Rush like unease about it, suggesting intrigue and hidden danger, jangling guitars bouncing off clattering and pinging toms, while swathes of synths add colour, before the instrumental "Endless (pt. 1) (can something that is endless arrive in parts.........?) allows Rabin to stretch out his approach behind the keys, MacDonald's bass work being at its most expansive as Whyte provides guitars work which sings as it singes. "Endless (pt. 2)" (evidently it can) again reveals a Rush flavour, although with the lightness of keyboard touch that suggests the hands of Mark Kelly of Marillion. All of which leaves "Mousetrap" to do its job, ensnaring the listener through a whole host of keyboard melodies and harmony vocals (surprisingly, something not used often, bearing in mind we have three singers here), as a grittier attack counterpointing some scintillating work from Rabin's keys.

Special mentions need go to lyricist Greg Skillman who has a hand in the words on five songs here, weaving interesting stories as he does so, as well as Yuri Kovalenko, whose aforementioned artwork really is rather striking. What this highlights though is what a team effort Elephants Of Scotland, the duo above and especially the four musicians are (Rabin also produced, mixed and mastered the whole kit and caboodle), the performances revealing no ego or agenda other than that to make the songs on this album every bit as good as they can be. The results are rather special.

Track Listing
1. A Different Machine
2. The Other Room
3. Amber Waves
5. Boxless
6. Endless (Pt.1)
7. Endless (Pt.2)
8. Mousetrap

Added: May 18th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Elephants Of Scotland online
Hits: 2884
Language: english

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Elephants Of Scotland: Execute And Breathe
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-05-18 12:07:38
My Score:

Elephants of Scotland is an exciting band hailing from Burlington, Vermont. They formed in 2010 but their roots go all the way back to '80s cover band Neon Magic. Their first album Home Away From Home was released in 2013. EXECUTE and BREATHE is their brand new album and folks, it's a beauty.

The band is Dan MacDonald (bass, vocals), Ornan McLean (drums, percussion), Adam Rabin (synth, vocals) and John Whyte (guitar, vocals).

Three out of four band members sing lead vocals and they are all excellent. Anyone who says progressive rock lacks good singers needs to listen to this band. Musically, the album stays within the confines of heavy melodic prog with the occasional foray into AOR territory. Rest assured, the musicianship is top notch and the band are clearly influenced by '80s/'90s Rush.

The album begins with the catchy "A Different Machine" and its huge pulsating bass line. When the hard rocking rhythms kick in you just know this will be a powerful album. Short winding synths and melodic guitar riffs makes for excellent power prog before the music slows and gets heavy once again.

"The Other Room" begins with cool ringing guitars travelling between speakers and forms another excellent guitar groove. The synths and guitar, both lead and rhythm, is tasty throughout.

"Amber Waves" begins with pretty piano and melodic vocals before turning into a mid-tempo groove. Electric riffs turn into tasty acoustic strumming where tasteful keyboards seem to float like leaves on the breathe. The heavier riffs return, this time with big organ fills rounding out the sound. This is classy and sophisticated rock music with enough progressive undertones that kept this prog fan fully engaged.

The atmospheric intro of drifting keys and effects begin "TFAY", another fine slice of heavy melodic prog that will have fans Rush clamouring for more. Even the lead vocals of Whyte recall a subdued Geddy Lee. Some excellent drums, bass and guitar interaction on this one. "Boxless" is another Rush influenced tune with catchy synth lines, excellent bass and chiming guitar chords. This time the Power Windows album came to mind.

I really can't recommend EXECUTE and BREATHE enough. Elephants of Scotland should be a household name and hopefully this album will bring them the recognition they deserve.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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