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Pure Reason Revolution: Hammer And Anvil

It is not often that after only two albums a band can split their own audience down the middle; however UK progressives Pure Reason Revolution have managed to do just that. Debut album The Dark Third, which was released in 2006, announced the band's arrival with a Floydian, Gentle Giant like fanfare that used the subtlety and grand scope of both those bands, before melding it to a slightly more contemporary edge to create one of the best prog releases of the time. Fast forward three years and the second offering, Amor Vincit Omnia took a swift left turn into an altogether more electro-pop/dance/prog direction that delighted, confused and confounded their critics in equal measure. Personally I have to admit that having loved the debut, my initial reaction to AVO, was less than lukewarm and it has taken a lengthy time before I could genuinely see some (but definitely not all) of the merits in their change of tack.

Many suspected (and the band openly encouraged the thought) that album number three would once again find a completely new tangent to dazzle and disappoint with. However in truth Hammer And Anvil is more like the album that should have come between albums number one and two. The dance beats and electro themes are still strongly in evidence, but on this occasion they have (mostly) been bonded with more melodic passages that add the progressive scope of the debut to the mix. It is a far better compromise and had it come after The Dark Third, would have easily explained the harshness of Amor much better. What that means is that those who were seduced by the overtly prog vibe of the early sound have far more to hang their hat on here and those who were happier with the clinical approach that emerged later, still have the bold bass thumps and crisp beats to get their teeth into.

That's not to say that all the songs meet the middle ground. Some, "Open Insurrection" or "Armistice" are dreamy progressive numbers that create huge swathes of atmosphere through their use of floating keyboard layers and laid back guitar passages, which build over some wonderful harmony vocals. "Blitzkrieg", the track that precedes that pairing illustrates the other side of the coin, as a Depeche Mode collection of beats and keyboard bursts results in the most electro-dance song of the album. Somehow though it all feels a little more organic than the similar output on Amor Vincit Omnia, with the vocals that enter quite late in the song working extremely well with the sampled voices that hide deep in rhythms.

The reason (no pun intended), I got into Pure Reason Revolution in the first place was the glorious progressive call and response of "The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning" from The Dark Third and I am delighted to say that "Black Mourning" sounds very much like a continuation of that song. There's a very slight Nine Inch Nails vibe to the deep dark riff and the sparseness that punctuates the rhythmic keyboards and regimented beat, but once again it is the vocals that really raise this song into something far greater than the sum of its parts.

I'm still not convinced that Hammer And Anvil will please all of the people all of the time, however there is no doubting that the adventurously aggressive, yet seductive nature of much of what is presented here will appeal to a broad cross section of progressively minded music fans. The biggest compliment I can pay Pure Reason Revolution's third effort is that rather than fear what comes next, as I did after Amor, I actually can't wait to see where they go from here.

Track Listing
1. Fight Fire
2. Black Mourning
3. Patriarch
4. Last Man, Last Round
5. Valour
6. Over The Top
7. Never Divide
8. Blitzkrieg
9. Open Insurrection
10. Armistice

Added: October 17th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Pure Reason Revolution MySpace
Hits: 2981
Language: english

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