Room; The: Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam
For over two years now I've been eagerly awaiting the return of The Room, this Southeast England outfit delivering the sumptuously delightful Open Fire early in 2013. That debut was an album that leaned heavily on Saga as a touching point; doing a marvellous job of straddling pop, prog and rock. Follow up, Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam, repeats the trick, however what's most noticeable is just how far this band have come in such a short space of time; album number two a remarkably mature statement. Vocalist Martin Wilson still unmistakably reminds of Saga's Michael Sadler, however only on occasion are that band now strongly referenced, the bounding riff and sparky vocal of "Bedlam" a glistening prog/melodic rock delight, while "The Hunter" could in all honesty have come from any of the early album's in the Saga catalogue.
However much of the rest of the album ever so slightly shelves the proggier side of things, instead landing closer to adult pop territory, while still retaining an intricate edge that song based prog fans will lap up. Sample "Carrie" for proof of guitarist Steve Anderson's subtle ability to infuse energy and passion into atmospheric and threateningly dark ideas. It's a trick utilised to maximum effect, but without the need to repeat itself, the sparse melancholic "Full Circle" a slow build that brings touches of Marillion or Galahad into a far more obviously accessible setting. At the other end of the spectrum is the gently melodic "As Crazy As It Seems", a song that relies on a simple approach of strong, independent vocals standing proud above discreet layers of keyboards and a piano line (something the debut used much more frequently) to captivate and invigorate in the most laid back manner. Again, by contrast "The Book" is positively upbeat, bassist Andy Rowe laying down a throbbing backbone from which choral voices, tambourine and acoustic guitar offer up a counterbalance to much of the earnest (but never overly so) fare that can be found elsewhere, and when a snarling riff suddenly kicks in, the effect is doubled by what has come before.
There simply isn't a weak spot on the album, the mix beautifully sympathetic to the restrained, yet exuberant approach The Room use to such great effect, while the production is sharp and precise without ever feeling remote; all the elements given space to breathe and make their strongest impact. Highlights come thick and fast, however I can't help but end by mentioning "My Friend Jack", a track that will rival any for my 'song of the year', as a slow eerie introduction shows admirable patience in building the atmosphere, Wilson making breathy sounds over cascading but controlled keyboards and guitars. However when the staccato riff bites deep the song's sinister surge simply becomes irresistible. Add in church organ keyboards and a short guitar solo that evokes early Steve Rothery and this is the most atmospheric piece I've heard in quite some time.
Two albums in and The Room are already a band who can discard phrases such as 'showing promise', 'much to build on', or 'could be exciting'. Beyond The Gates Bedlam already delivering a fully realised vision that's sure to captivate those with an ear for seductive melodies, biting lyrics and songs that manage to remain deep and involving while being catchy as hell.
2. Full Circle
3. My Friend Jack
4. As Crazy As It Seems
5. She Smiles
6. The Book
9. The Hunter
Added: November 1st 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Room online
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