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Proud Peasant: Communion

The second in their three part It Does Not Cease trilogy of albums, Communion is the also the second full length effort in total from US progressive rock outfit Proud Peasant. Taking its cues from a lot of what’s seriously hot in the current prog scene - Wobbler, Jordsjo and the like - this six-piece seem able to add in something all of their own, with a straight to the pointness that you might not expect colouring their sound. Initially I must admit that I found this a tough nut to crack, some of the sound choices and elements of the production offering a slightly lower-budget feel than is usually to my taste. That’s not because I can’t engage with lower-budget albums, but more that when it feels like a stylistic choice than a true restriction, I wonder what the point was?

That said, what wins through here is what really matters - the strength of the songwriting and the performances of the musicians involved. With each of the six tracks apart from “A Storm Of Swords” seemingly split into multiple parts, there’s a feel of the epic about everything encountered, even when three pieces fall under the 6 minute mark. “The Fall” on the other hand heads for the other end of the spectrum, stretching out to just over 19 minutes and it has to be said that it’s where, for me, this outfit do their best work. Frantic in places, there’s little mucking about as this symphonic, yet folky and traditional fare almost stabs you in the eye with its glinting intent. With pounding drums and many mini-crescendos, it’s quite the heady experience, but one where the solos from both guitars and keyboards and the multi-part vocals really do have room to roam.

Elsewhere, some of the movements are slower and more reserved, “The Web Of Shadow” offering a more medieval bent by way of instrumental aside before breaking into a horns and vocal lament, whereas the aforementioned “A Storm Of Swords” positively bulges with melodic chimes, great guitar interplay and a devil may care nature that’s difficult to resist.

Clever in construction and, in places, daring in execution, Communion finds Proud Peasant continuing to build their reputation and create a name for themselves. For me, this album, while a cracking good listen, maybe hints more at what’s to come than it does scream that it’s the finished article, but I’m guessing the journey to find out where this collective is headed is going to be a lot of fun.

Track Listing
1. An Embarrassment Of Riches
2. A Thousand Cuts
3. A Web Of Shadows
4. A Storm Of Swords
5. Shibboleth
6. The Fall

Added: December 27th 2023
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Proud Peasant @ bandcamp
Hits: 473
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Proud Peasant: Communion
Posted by Aaron Steelman, SoT Staff Writer on 2023-12-27 23:54:19
My Score:

Proud Peasant’s new album, Communion, is a mixed bag. The band members and the many guest musicians are good, though not virtuosic, players and some of the instrumental passages are enjoyable. But the album is marred by poor production in spots, uneven songwriting, and most of all very distracting vocals.

The album opens promisingly. The first part of “An Embarrassment of Riches” is a nice instrumental section with many tempo changes and reminds one of the “Atom Heart Mother” suite, especially around the three-minute mark. But then around five minutes of this eight-plus-minute track come whiny, shoe-gazing style vocals that will surprise listeners of Proud Peasant’s previous work and plague most of the rest of the album.

“A Thousand Cuts” is a fairly heavy instrumental with nice use of a variety of horns. But the piece becomes repetitive, especially the drumming toward the end, and the accompanying percussion is simply a mess.

Next up is “A Web of Shadow.” It has a nice minstrel-like introduction. But, oh boy, around the two-minute mark come those vocals again, and they are even more annoying than on the opening track. The lyrics are cloying too. It’s a skip.

The fourth track, “A Storm of Swords,” contains a lot of nice crunchy guitar before the tune becomes almost carnivalesque. The drums are far too high in the mix, a problem elsewhere on the album too. But, blessedly, there are no vocals.

There isn’t much to say about “Shibboleth.” It has sparse vocals and the music is pleasant enough, but not memorable.

The album closes with “The Fall,” an epic of 19 minutes. It has a lot of pretty bits, but it disappoints overall. There is some nice Tony Banks-type keyboard work (think of “The Knife,” especially) accompanied by pastoral touches also reminiscent of early Genesis and Anthony Phillips’ solo material. But unlike the three epics on the band’s 2014 debut Flight, the piece doesn’t cohere. One gets the sense that they were trying for something like “Supper’s Ready.” Granted, that would be a tall order for any band, but if that were the intention, it’s a failure. They should have broken up the track into three or four separate pieces and, as you might have guessed by now, dropped the vocals.

I had high hopes for this album given the excellence of Flight and 2021’s quite good odds-and-sods Peasantsongs, which was meant as a bridge to Communion. As much as I expected, and hoped, to be able to recommend it, I just can’t.

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