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arK: Wild Untamed Imaginings

Bassist and singer John Jowitt has had a remarkably fruitful career through the progressive rock bands IQ, Jadis, Arena and Frost*, however before any of that he was in the band arK (the backwards capital is to differentiate them from the outfit called Ark), forming them as long ago as 1985. Three years later, The Dreams Of Mr. Jones became the band's first and only proper release, although a further two cassette only albums did follow before Jowitt made the move to IQ. arK continued, releasing Spiritual Physics in 1992, but they folded soon after.

Jowitt had always considered arK as unfinished business and when Steve Harris, the band's guitar-synth player, got in touch with him, the idea to reform and rework/update some of the band's early material was decided upon. The pair set about re-recruiting original singer Tony Short (who had auditioned for Marillion when Fish departed many years ago) and guitarist Peter Wheatley and with none of the foursome still in touch with any of the drummers arK had back in the day, Darwin's Radio kit rattler Tim Churchman was brought in to complete the line up.

The arK sound is firmly planted in traditional/neo prog, with a very English feel, although I'm pleased to say that there is plenty of variation going on under that guise. The fact that the synth embellishments come only from Harris' guitar synth (no keyboards were used in the making of this album), also gives arK a slightly different angle from other bands ploughing this furrow. What is more striking though, is the rawness of the production on Wild Untamed Imaginings and while it never veers into prog-metal territory, Wheatley does fire off some distinctly robust riffs and guitar breaks that leads this album a surprisingly rough, almost punky (in a proggy kinda way!) direction. Just listen to the attack of "Gaia" for one of the best examples of fiery, frenetic prog you're likely to find, and marvel at how it is done in a way that still leaves a huge melodic footprint, with chunky synth motifs and energetic drumming vying for control. Short, who also adds flute throughout the album isn't one of the best singers technically, but his voice is crammed with character and as many prog frontmen have done before him he makes every word on this album believable through the emotion he holds in his voice.

The highlights come thick and fast, with "Coats Of Red", having the military feel that title suggests and bizarrely a riff that is strongly reminiscent of "Beat It" by Michael Jackson as well as a touch of New Model Army! It's a cracking call to arms, with the strident guitars being mirrored by the synths, however it is the way in which a sublimely restrained guitar solo and flute break are weaved into the mix that sets the aspirations arK apart. "New Scientist", which uses sound clips of young children going about their day to great effect, brings a more atmospheric side to proceedings and the spoken word section, which reminds of Fish at his enigmatic best, adds to the drama. A more simplistic outlook is shown on the beautifully melodic "Hagley", where flute often leads the music in a gently hypnotic manner that really shows the intricacies of arK in a way that much of the energetic prog here doesn't allow. Short revels in this setting, with one of his best vocals and the effect is to slowly ease you out of the every day and into a more serene place. There isn't a missed beat across the eleven songs on Wild Untamed Imaginings and considering the age of some of these compositions, arK sounds amazingly, fresh, vibrant and relevant.

I'm delighted to say that arK aren't resting on their laurels with this album, as they have stated that writing new material is next on the agenda, personally I'm looking forward to hearing it already!

Track Listing
01.Boudicca's Chariot
02. Coats Of Red
03. Flagday
04. New Scientist
05. Hagley
06. Gaia
07. Eighth Deadly Sin
08. Change Pt2
09. So You Finally Made It
10. Kaleidoscope
11. Nowhere's Ark

Added: November 23rd 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Official arK Web Site
Hits: 2755
Language: english

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