4 out of 5 Stars!
After listening to The Room’s debut album (Open Fire) for more than a year now, and finally hearing this recently released sophomore collection of tracks, I’ve concluded that this group is definitely a bit weird. The debut album was not a fluke, as I thought might be possible, but rather an actual trademark of the band itself. And please know I say the word “weird” in a smile-worthy and positive way.
For me, it’s typically refreshing when I hear something slightly “off” when it comes to new bands playing in a favorite genre, bands offering more than just another cookie-cutter version of [insert the name of some classic, highly influential band here]. So when I discover a group that blends diverse influences (ingredients) to create its base sound, then sprinkles into the mix its own musical magic (and the talents of each band member) to concoct a somewhat different and successful end-product, I deem it a joyous occasion.
That’s what I’ve proclaimed with The Room. In my estimation, the band is, on many levels, a typical melodic Hard Rock act that successfully incorporates diverse Prog-Rock elements into its material in the same manner as a band such as It Bites triumphantly merged varying amounts of different genres to create its own sound/product. A bit odd, a bit quirky, for certain. But definitely engaging and weird…but also highly welcomed.
And I’m not talking about just the instrumentation either (including the diversity when it comes to guitar tones or keyboard/synth sounds), or the way the band writes or arranges its material, but also when it comes to the lead vocalist (the instantly noticeable “band stamp”). Martin Wilson truly has a different sort of voice and style of delivery. In quieter, ballad moments, such as the more straightforward tracks “Masquerade” or “As Crazy As It Seems,” Wilson reminds me of Michael Sadler from Saga, or Phillip Griffiths from Alias Eye (especially when it comes to the vibrato and overall tonality of both singers). Whereas on livelier, more off-the wall tracks, he has unsuspected yet recognizable quirks to his voice (and on songs such as “Full Circle” or “My Friend Jack,” there’s even a slightly demented manner to his delivery), giving him a fun, bizarre style that is not at all indigestible, but rather, it adds an unanticipated spice to the band’s overall off-beat flavor. This is in the same manner as singers Francis Dunnery (of It Bites), Jens Appelgren (of A.C.T), or even Alex Harvey (of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) contributes/contributed to each of their group’s instantly identifiable sounds.
Therefore, as expected for an “off” band such as The Room, every track has numerous marriages of influences. For instance, on “She Smiles,” the electric piano brings to mind shades of Supertramp, only with a heavier twist when it comes to the other more traditional “Prog-Rock meets Hard Rock” orchestration. The intro of “The Book,” on the other hand, includes some dreamy Mellotron and choirs in a moody Neo-Prog opening, then goes off into a bouncy—almost pop—direction during the verse and choruses. The mid-section of the track, however, is yet another alteration in styles, with heavy organ (almost in the vein of Uriah Heep) and a quirkier, dramatic vocal delivery that seems like an Americanized version of Fish (from Marillion). The song’s ending, on the other hand, is yet another type of blended style, with dual guitar leads/melody lines that remind me of Thin Lizzy meets Wishbone Ash over typical Neo-Prog Mellotron/organ. Once again, this band excels at delivering surprises, at offering a wide level of influences while creating a sound all its own.
“Splinter” could have come straight off an album by the aforementioned Alias Eye perhaps, whereas “The Hunter” is a Saga-like track when it comes to its melody, instrumentation, and arrangement, but melded with sounds from instrumentally diverse groups such as Magic Pie or Magellan. “Bedlam,” on the other hand, is a harder-rocking tune in the style of (perhaps) the more Prog-oriented Axxis meets the more blues-based Gotthard, with those “slightly demented” style of vocals from Martin Wilson (including a “loony tunes” laugh at the end) along with touches of the more Prog-Rock moments of the British band Nightwing…a great closing track.
I couldn’t close out the review without also mentioning the album’s opening song (and single) “Carrie,” which is another fine (and catchy) example of The Room’s unique merging of styles. Melodic Hard Rock, diverse when it comes to its Prog-Rock orchestration (similar to It Bites), with a brief synth solo near the end straight out of GPS or Spock’s Beard. A quirky choice for a single, but an expected one from a band with such an unexpected merging of styles.
So for music lovers of the Prog-Rock variety, this is one band you might appreciate as much as I do. On either of the band’s albums, you certainly won’t find the “usual/usual” when it comes to any particular sound or style, but some variety and intriguing moments when it comes to the overall musical influences (the stylistic ingredients) to liven up the taste buds (or, more correctly, the I-Phone earbuds). I encourage those unfamiliar with the band to check out either release, as they are both high in quality. And have fun attempting to actually identify the band’s various musical influences…I sure did even though I’m sure I failed miserably.