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Burke; Dec: Paradigms & Storylines

Coming to prominence as a member of the excellent Darwin's Radio and Frost*, singer, guitarist and keyboard player Dec Burke proved with his excellent solo debut release Destroy All Monsters (although I did have to request a re-mixed version to fully appreciate its potential) that he was extremely capable of standing on his own two feet. Now a year further down the line Dec is back with another slice of Prog Rock which encompasses Ambient, Metal and an almost commercial Pop feel. Ultimately however Burke is a song-writer and one capable of combining intricate and worthwhile lyrical ideas to equally detailed and expressive music. Have a look round the web for reviews of Burke's solo debut effort and the theme is the same, great songs shame about the mix (an opinion I shared before I heard the re-mix) and while some may find album number two a little bass heavy in places, on the whole Paradigms & Storylines (I do love that title) is a crisp, sharp album that allows all of its constituent parts to collide with a beautiful sense of purpose. This means that the songs expand and contract as though they are living things, giving the music a real sense of emotion and purpose.

In terms of style Burke has again blended some hard hitting, uncompromising guitar bursts to a far more restrained and considered style, with some songs being almost worthy of "chart hit" consideration, while others are pure Prog bliss. With only seven songs on board, Paradigms & Storylines never feels rushed, with the shortest songs coming in at just under six minutes and the longest being just over seventeen (although that does include a short "hidden" section) and it is through this unrestrictive stance that Burke and his talented group of musicians - the rest of the band is made up of Stefan Fanden (bass),Carl Westholm (keyboards), Mike Wikman (drums) and Cia Backman (backing vocals) - truly express themselves. "Days Like These" kicks things off in uplifting, if full on style, with soaring guitar rips and galloping riffs combining with a wall of layered vocals and underpinning keyboards to come up with something that sounds like Porcupine Tree going commercial - a neat trick indeed. Electro-beats and spiralling fret flurries herald in the "March Of The Androids", which gives Burke the opportunity to really stretch out his vocal chords and while the bass is maybe a little too "out there" in the mix, this is sort of thing that fans of Muse should jiggle with excitement to.

Having already, only two tracks in, shown the joined up eclecticism of P&S, "A Price For Love" brings a more introverted side to this album, although in a way that is still easily accessible and involving. The slow, building sections of bass (Fanden is a real star on this disc) allow the guitars to fire out little runs and motifs, which while not flashy, do hook you in to the mood and vibe of the song. The vocal arrangements and how they combine with their musical backing gives the songs a real scope and presence, especially as Burke builds his way to the stunning guitar soloing crescendo. String led and tribal drum infused, "The River" heads back towards the more easy on the ear end of Porcupine Tree and as it gently, but atmospherically meanders through piano runs, eerie violin strikes and heartfelt vocals, the end results actually come across like PTree, meets Muse at a Queen convention where The Feeling are playing pop songs! It shouldn't work, but in truth this could with the correct exposure introduce Burke to a far more mainstream audience.

"Yesterday's Fool" continues further down this slightly less Prog route with acoustic guitars creating the basis for another passion soaked vocal, although the impressively stinging guitar workout and humungous vocal layers ensure that the almost sing along sections stay just on the right side of Prog Rock. An Ambient air is added to the unnerving melody of "December Sun", making for a gloriously off-kilter experience with the easy on the ear vibe being punctuated by uncompromising drums, before the album's title track leads us toward the conclusion of Paradigms & Storylines in epic fashion. The drawn out opening builds the tension, before a Marillion-esque keyboard burst offers up welcome relief, although again it is the marriage of layered vocal and punchy bass to the crunching guitars and probing keys that lifts this song, making it a highlight of an excellent album. After a short pause at the track's conclusion, it is fitting that a disc with such eclecticism and uncompromising intricacy ends with an acoustic guitar and vocal offering up something far more simple, if equally beautiful and involving as what has come before.

Dec Burks has created an album that crosses the boundaries between Prog Rock, Metal, Ambient and Pop with assured confidence and purpose, although the subtle nature in which it is achieved is a delight. As many Progressive acts seek to add melody and to some extent commerciality to their more uncompromising instincts, Paradigms & Storylines proves it can be done in a stunningly effective fashion and without losing the essence of a genre not famed for its accommodating nature.

Track Listing
01. Days Like These 

02. March of the Androids

03. A Price for Life

04. The River 

05. Yesterdays Fool

06. December Sun 

07. Paradigms & Storylines

Added: October 17th 2011
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Dec Burke online
Hits: 1240
Language: english

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