RPWL is one of the better progressive rock outfits to emerge from Europe in
the last decade, and their brand of Floyd-inspired soft prog has won them a big
following. And like Pink Floyd, the guitar work in RPWL is one of the band's
strongest features - but it seldom really stands out, leaving you hankering for
more. See the band live, though, and you'll be deeply impressed by their
guitarist's Gilmour-esque skills. The bluesy tones emanating from his
Telecaster positively wailed their way into every heart in the audience, and
left many wondering why guitarist Wallner wasn't more prominently featured in
So the next logical step, of course, was for Wallner (the "W" in RPWL) to
step outside the bounds of his alma mater band and record something of his own.
And for this solo trip, Kalle Wallner surrounded himself with some of modern
neo-progressive rock's best practitioners: John Mitchell on vocals - famous for
his work on It Bites, Kino, The Urbane, Arena, and recent sensation, Frost*. The
irrepressible John Jowitt on bass (IQ, Arena, Jadis, Frost*). Outstanding
vocalist Paul Wrightson - the original singer for Arena. And less known to prog
fans, Tommy Eberhardt on drums (Legazy, Beatfreaks). Rounding out that lineup
were guest appearances and production assistance from Yogi Lang (the "L" in RPWL),
and Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendeagon, Shadowland, Strangers on a Train, Tracy
Hitchings, Nolan and Wakeman - and many others.) Or - in summary - a who's who
of modern progressive music of the RPWL / Arena genres.
And from that lineup, you might imagine what the music sounds like - fitting
somewhere in the middle of the Frost* / Kino / Arena / RPWL quadrilateral.
Wallner's guitar work is prominent - but thankfully, it does not dominate as
much as you might have expected. The compositions are sophisticated, the overall
tone is a bit muted, and it falls shy of Frost*'s levels of complexity or
Arena's power - settling closer to the broader appeal of a Kino-styled
approachability. All performances are out of the top drawer and adding an extra
dimension to the music, Mirror is strongly themed, reflecting Wallner's
recent experiences. As Kalle puts it - the "songs derive from different phases
[of my life] in the last three years ... a result of different emotions: anger,
hate, grief...". John Mitchell is probably a better guitarist than singer, but
his delivery is clear and perfectly controlled here. Wrightson's singing is in
the same intense vein as the earlier Arena records, and adds the emotion Wallner
was looking for.
The standout track is the 10-minute, rather complex "Forbidden To Remain",
which was originally slated for inclusion in RPWL's Trying To Kiss The Sun.
Listen for Wrightson's singing and Wallner's truly excellent guitar work, and
the odd 13/8 time signature. "Moon And Sun" has Mitchell singing some unusual,
angular melody lines, but the song develops into a AOR-styled piece. Kalle
describes "Black Despair" as "Probably the saddest song I ever wrote". It is a
simple piece starting with vocals over acoustic guitar, in a mournful tune that
tugs at the heartstrings. Electric guitar eases its way into the mix, and half
way through it becomes all-instrumental, and you could be listening to Gilmour
at his best - with a long, slow, moving guitar solo. And title track "Mirror"
describes someone looking look into a mirror but not recognizing himself or the
things he's doing. The angry tones, the combined 4/4 and 5/4 time signatures and
the guitar solo played over a solid riff add a great deal of interest. There are
three vocalists on the 11 songs, and three songs are all-instrumental, so
there's enough variety to keep your interest throughout.
So is it Kino Mark-II? Or Frost* Mark-II? Or RPWL Mark-II, or perhaps Violet
The similarities are inevitable, but this record has a character of its own
and should be heard.
2. Moon and Sun
3. Break You
4. Black Despair
5. Open Sore
8. Don't ask me why
10. Forbidden to remain
12. Artist Manqué (Bonus track - originally by Violet District)