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Psychanoia: Unreal Seas

Reading the press release that accompanies the third album from French progressive rock outfit Psychanoia is an interesting exercise, the band themselves explaining their interesting journey from humble beginnings to a second full length album that arrived some nine years ago. Also revealed is the band's evolution from being instrumental and keyboard-less to the situation now where their vocalist Ivan Jacquin also brings his 'board-skills to Unreal Seas. Guitarist Olivier Gaudet, bassist Jean-Philippe Ciman and drummer Thierry Charlet complete a line-up that boldly claims to have evolved further in recent times to now be presenting a more modern prog approach, names such as Opeth, Steven Wilson and Pain Of Salvation bandied around. It's at this stage that I stopped reading and checked that I was listening to the correct CD, for while there are indeed excellent, if idiosyncratic vocals, wonderful keyboard excursions and a cleverly progressive appeal, if I was forced to name one band Psychanoia sound like, it would he the neo-prog of Arena that instantly sprung to mind.

Coming from a big Arena fan that's actually quite a compliment, because other than some more forceful vocals, not only do this outfit sound like Arena, they also operate at close to the same convincingly excellent levels. "Melt Into Dawn" however is an unexpected opener, distorted news clips and disembodied shouts punctuated by a shotgun being loaded and then released, followed by a short shriek of pain. From there Jacquin surprises by matching a scathing riff with a Ricky Warwick (The Almighty, Black Star Riders) like bark. It's uncompromising, but with a darting keyboard line slowly underpinning it all, the intrigue kicks in early and from there never really lets go. "This Between" gives a better indication of what's to come, confidently busy drums bouncing off insistent guitars and the singer's decidedly and engaging neo-prog like keyboard bursts. With tender moments of guitar broken up by heartfelt vocals, that rather unexpectedly remind almost of Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley(!) and a tasteful guitar solo; the quartet are now fully into their stride.

From there Unreal Seas ebbs and flows as it serves up a mix of calm waters and crashing storms. It would be a lie to suggest that the vocals won't, for some, be an acquired taste, the high notes in the otherwise excellent and stick in the mind "Find A Way" almost a step too far. However, musically things never really put a foot wrong, "The Letter" adding to the theatric base this band build with ease, while "Last Words" infuses just the right amount of manic energy into what becomes a cracking album closer.

After their stop start early stages we can only hope that these Frenchmen have now firmly found their feet and will start to become a much more regular feature on the progressive rock scene. They may not actually create the sound they believe they do, but the sounds they do create are pretty damn impressive.

Track Listing
1. Melt Into Dawn
2. This Between
3. The Shadows in Me
4. Thin Roads to Nowhere
5. Find a Way
6. The Letter
7. My Hope
8. Last Words

Added: December 9th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Psychanoia online
Hits: 1456
Language: english

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