When I see words like isotope and endoscope combined in an album title, I get curious to their background. Certainly in this case, because isotopes and endoscopes play a role in an industry where I worked for a number of years: healthcare, and more specifically oncology equipment. Alas, the title has nothing to do with that, all I could find was that it sounded like a good title for an album, in this case the album Isotopes and Endscopes (sic) by This Raging Silence, a quartet hailing from Bristol, UK.
(Note: After publishing this review, Jeff told me the title relates to his personal experiences in the year2014 -AH)
The album has been in the making for a while now, and if all goes well it will be released shortly after this review appears, in April 2015. The band was formed by Jeff Cox (guitar, vocals) and John Tyrer (electric and acoustic guitar), who were quickly joined by Dave Appleford on bass and Garry Davies on drums. Cox and Davies were both members of the British heavy metal band Jaguar in the mid 1980s, a band that was co-founded by Cox in 1979. After a revival of the NWOBHM in the late 1990s, during which Jaguar was revived as well, Cox started focusing on writing solo material - which eventually led to the found of This Raging Silence, a progressive rock band.
On the album, which was kindly provided to me on CD-ROM by Jeff Cox, accompanied with some background information, and a request to review it, we find a slightly heavy rock music, interleaved with atmospheric instrumental interludes and influences from different sides.
The opening track Alone Inside my Head (Can we go there with an endoscope? Probably not...), starts with a cacophony of (mainly female) voices followed by a scream "I cannot stand it". The lyrics deal with, not surprisingly after this, observations of life, stress and mental illness. All this is a song that shows some influences from modern prog, including Porcupine Tree, mainly in the instrumental parts: keyboards creating a melody, that repeats, while underneath the guitars and bass add their own varying parts. The vocals of Jeff Cox on this one appear a little bit nasal - something that may take some getting used to, but I have no problem with it. The guitar and bass work, and certainly a guitar solo, show some of the metal past of the band members. At the same time the line 'toxins they accumulate, so how do I communicate' is catchy enough to stick in your head.
The love for rock, not so much metal, continues on Garden of Joy, which is an ode to Jeff Buckley, a major influence of Jeff Cox. It seems a straightforward heavy rock song to the casual listener, but it is a little more complicated on more careful listening. I am not too familiar with Buckley's work, but through this track, and some background listening, certainly got interested in hearing more. A fitting tribute in that sense.
Confluence is the longest track of the album, with its 11 minutes. After an intro with the sounds of water and wind, or ghosts, and an acoustic guitar, a single guitar note comes in that makes any prog fan immediately shout 'Gilmour' - and more notes follow. After a guitar lead that is definitely following David Gilmour's example, a Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree like soundscape is build up which is suddenly replace by a rockier guitar solo, before the vocals come in. This time, the vocals are slightly higher pitched and less nasal - showing a different emotion than in earlier tracks, a call for action "We all need to break these chains, under the weight of which we'll choke".
After this, Jeff Cox and his band take us on a camping trip to Lora Doone, a dark, scary valley in Exmoor. The lyrics deal with emotions and toughts of Cox, based on a real camping trip years ago. Dark, gloomy, sometimes scary, but with a positive ending. Musically this illustrated by acoustic guitar, almost Paul Samson (remember him, anyone?) like electric guitar riffs and powerful bass work. As scary as it may be, I'd like to go camping there now.
But there's more travel - The Caves of Rojales in Spain tells of a Swedish woman in her sixties who lives there (part of the year) making her art. Based on a talk with her, the band created this track, where the music seems to follow the lyrics by switching from acoustic guitar to electric rock and back a number of times. At some point a verse explains that "A sail boat trip is so much better than riding on a train" follow by an instrumental that clearly mimics the noises of a train ride, translated to guitar and keyboard riffs.
In the end All is Forgiven. At least, that is the message of the closing track, which deals with the problems created by religion and intolerance across cultures. On this track, I suddenly understood why the band mentions Red Hot Chilli Peppers as an influence. Hardly a prog band, but this track borrows very cleverly some of the vocal style and bass sound of RHCP, but blends it with modern rock and once again almost psychedelic, Porcupine Tree like instrumental parts. With all that, it also is to my ears the heaviest track on the album, and one that I really like.
All in all, I think This Raging Silence may not be the band that is going to change the sound of progressive rock, but they are definitely part of that sound. Skilled musicians, narrative lyrics and a nice mix of influences and originals ideas is what I heard. Also, the sound of the album is very good, I like the mix - although in some places the bass and drums might have been a bit more on the foreground. A worthwhile and recommended listen!