It’s been a few years since this promising prog band from Connecticut surprised the world with their strong debut Tall Tales. The band's brand of lush, Genesis-inspired progressive rock struck a soft spot for listeners clamoring for sounds of the 70’s, and now the follow-up is finally here. Would the band continue on with the same style, or move towards a different path of progressive rock?
Well, for the most part Crucible still manage to pack lots of classic keyboard sounds, lyrical guitar lines, and clear, melodic vocals, into an extremely palatable style. The opening track, “The Swordplayer,” might very well be the best song the band has written. Featuring Hammond, Moog, and Mellotron, this lengthy track just screams with vintage sounds, and add the vibrant vocals of Bill Esposito and you get a real winner. Guitars and keyboards battle it out amidst constant time changes, while the bass and drums pound away furiously.
Unfortunately, most of the classic sounds and complexity end here. The rest of the CD, while very good and more mature for the band, is much more commercial sounding. “I’d Rather Walk” and “A Man of Two Minds” are wonderful pop songs, embellished with some airy keyboards from Tim Horan, acoustic guitars, and catchy vocals. The band does an excellent cover of Crack the Sky’s “Nuclear Apathy” that really rocks, perhaps even topping the original. On “Worlds Apart” the bands seems unsure of whether to break out into a challenging prog rocker, or deliver a gentle, piano driven pop number. The CD ends on a real high note with the instrumental “Curtains,” that lets keyboard player Horan really shine with some great textures and melodies. Guitarist Dan Esposito also lets rip with some killer tones here as well.
It would be interesting to see the band write something similar, perhaps in a longer format, on a future release. Curtains shows great maturity for the band, especially in the songwriting department. I’m just not sure that listeners who loved all the vintage sounds of the bands debut will have the patience for some of the more poppy, commercial tracks the band has chosen to record this time around.