It’s incredible how progressive rock’s golden era of the 70’s has been making a big return as inspiration since the turn of the millenium — the comeback of bands like Van Der Graaf Generastor and Comus being a part, a festival that allows the best of both eras to be showcased and a new generation emerging from the shadows.
Coralspin are a melting pot of progressive and AOR; the symphonic vocals of Ellie Blyth — a graudate of Leeds University’s conservatorium and a member of Oxford Pro Musica singers’ choir — bring to mind the vulnerability of people such as Sonja Kristina Linwood on tracks like ‘Songbird’, but with the power of artists such as Tarja when the melodic rock side of the band comes out in full force.
The melodic rock side is where Coralspin manage to be as strong as their peers, Asia being one that immediately comes to mind given that band’s history; the combined keyboards and guitar solos on ‘Mistimed’ and the most ‘progressive’ track on the album ‘Sons of the Sleeping Giant’ manage to work without causing a clash between the two genres – let’s say you won’t be seeing them thinking dubstep will be a good idea to go down anytime.
They may be new to the prog scene but, in a world where diversity manages to work more than most, ‘Honey and Lava’ manages to relax the listener and invites them to figure out another band that no doubt in so many years will be an inspiration for the NEXT wave of progressive melodic rock.
Honey and Lava is the 38-minute 8-track debut album of female-fronted prog-band Coralspin. The have two keyboard-players Ellie Blyth, who is also their classically and operatically trained singer and Blake McQueen with Jake Simmons on guitar; they’re joined by Steve Knight [should be Kightley] bass and David English drums. Sons of the Sleeping Giant is their stomping opener with great hooks, delicious use of synthesizers and strong female-vocals throughout. Burn My Eyes starts with a lovely Mellotron-sound and some Frippish guitar before launching into a fast-paced compact complex song. Sky’s End has a lovely guitar-intro with keyboards weaving above, before morphing into a fast-paced rhythmic-guitar romp with some Tzuke-like vocals. Night Stalker is a nicely-paced catchy-song with a great guitar-break, while Aching finishes the album on a real high, showing Ellie’s vocals at their best but leaving space for guitar, great piano work and undulating synths. The vocals may take time to get used to but repeat listens rewards you and there are plenty of musical ideas demanding development into longer tracks; the songs will work very well live.
Prog Rock completely passed me by, Punk had signed its death warrant long before my musical awareness took hold. By comparison, Melodic Rock wasn’t rebellious or loud enough to warrant my youthful attention when the likes of Overkill and the Almighty could deliver. But with time and experience, you can come to appreciated things missed the first time around and this can be said of both genres. This interest not only resurrects old bands but spawns new ones like Coralspin.
All the hooks are there, the keyboard interludes, the excessively long tracks emphasised with the seven minute long album opener ‘Sons Of The Sleeping Giant’. Add to this the haunting vocals, dominant keyboard sound and you are in no illusion to where the band has taken its inspiration.
Tracks like ‘You’re Wrong’ has echoes of other great female vocalists matched to a backing track that Journey could have penned. Keyboards and vocals take centre stage on the majority of the album but more traditional guitar sound can be sort out on tracks like ‘Burn My Eyes’ which conjures images of Blakes 7 and other classic British Sci-Fi for some unknown reason. For me, ‘Night Stalker’ is the stand out track with its Mike Oldfield-esque guitar sound and upbeat rhythms and vocals.
There is a real subtlety to the tracks on ‘Honey and Lava’, no need to force the issue, rather let the silky professional sound flow over the listener with an easy intensely hypnotic sound. Coralspin is never going to provide the strength and power I yearned for as a youth but what it does provide is an album of a classic sound that is both technically brilliant and beautiful in its delivery. Maybe I did miss something in the loud intensity of music all those years ago.
Red Bazar are a great UK instrumental prog band that not many people know about, but damn well should do. We have played with them and they are top guys. Here’s a song from their second album Differential Being called ‘Paragon’:
From issue 2 of Alternative Female Voices magazine:
This album is so professionally put together it really does hold your attention. The album flows effortlessly from start to finish with its sharp rich harmonies and silky vocals. It’s evident that vocalist/keyboard player Ellie Blyth comes from fully trained classical and opera background as her vocals are simply sublime. Coralspin are truly amazing musicians and have put together a truly professional sounding album with ‘Honey and Lava’ and they will appeal to a lot of people with their middle of the road rock opera style progressive rock sound… absolutely no doubting this band’s overall talent and songwriting skills. Coralspin will go a long way in their own particular field and will definitely capture the more mature loving music fans amongst you.
The Aurovine mastermind’s review is here. Finally someone thought fit to mention the “climatic end to Aching”!
Coralspin’s debut album came with the promise of ‘barnstorming prog rock, like early Queen sung by Kate Bush’ an intriguing if slightly odd boast. ‘Sons Of The Sleeping Giant’ the opener is definitely in prog metal territory with a little Curved Air and Genesis thrown in for good measure. A great opener that whets the appetite for the rest of the album.
Ellie Blyth’s vocals are perfectly suited to this type of music and on the excellent ‘You’re Wrong’ they are showcased to full potential.
‘Mistimed’ and ‘Burn My Eyes’ are more straightforward rockers although the latter has some interesting changes of direction.
Half way through the album I realise that it’s Annette Peacock that the vocals remind me of, none more so than on the track ‘Sky’s End’ which also contains the first meaningful soloing on the album. I’m not a big fan of prog rock soloing but here it fits in just perfectly.
If you like your prog with a heavy dose of melody then look no further. ‘Songbird’ is a great example. I suppose some may compare to Magenta but really the only similarity is that it is prog with a female vocalist. Coralspin are certainly ‘rockier’ and will appeal to those brought up on Jenny Haan’s Lion and Curved Air but the subtleties of Coralspin will carry much more weight with the prog community. ‘Night Stalker’ is a radio friendly rocker too along with a good chunk of this debut album.
I’d personally have preferred more instrumental sections and grandiose keyboard epics but then they would be the parts that everyone else would hate, so for now i’ll have to make do with the climactic ending to ‘Aching’.
Recommended for fans of melodic rock with subtle prog infusions
A good review from Ave Noctum, a fairly new site set up by some of the people behind metalteamuk.net and live4metal.com. They’re mainly into metal and extreme metal, which is why they see us as gentle folkies!
With a title like “Lava and Honey”, an intriguing mix is promised. There is a suggestion of quirkiness. On offer is a band quoting Yes and Genesis as influences, and amongst its members a female singer Ellie Blyth who is a trained classical and opera singer with a desire to change direction. This singer is an ace card in the pack of gentle progressive songs with which we are dealt. We are invited to compare Ms Blyth to Sandy Denny of the late 60s folk rock band Fairport Convention. This is some challenge as the late Ms Denny had the silkiest and most expressive voice imaginable, bringing life to such songs as “Milk and Honey”. I think we might be getting the angle of this band here. This is more Cambridge Folk Festival than Wacken.
Sure enough we head into a folksy dream world with a steady rock beat and a 70s style synth. But I’ll tell you what, I was soon hooked into the misty world which the singer and her fellow musicians present. “Sons of the Sleeping Giant” is a very nice song and it’s very reassuring. Floaty hippiness resounds. The instrumental work is both unashamedly retro and full of movement. We’re transported into a gentle emotion-packed ending. The singer lives up to her billing. Her voice is unusual and versatile. On we go to “You’re Wrong”. It’s like floating along a river. Pleasant harmonies, carefully crafted instrumental work blending drums, guitar, synthesiser and Ms Blyth’s beautiful, calming voice make “You’re Wrong” very special. A steady melody is mixed with delicate touches. I’d say the modern equivalent of Ms Blyth’s voice would be Anneke van Giersbergen, the former vocalist of The Gathering. In a change of tack, “Mistimed” then has a strong similarity to Kate Bush in terms of vocals and musical style. “Burn My Eyes” is then so far out that it left me behind. Ms Blythe adopts a high-pitch tone which isn’t so easy on the ear this time. The track darkens momentarily before returning to the strange tones. It’s too eccentric for its own good. A sinister piano section follows a Doobie Brothers guitar line before this mysterious track comes to an end.
Never deviating too far from rock, the songs are individual. “Sky’s End” takes us into funky spaceville with its guitar style and old-fashioned synth work and the almost jazz-inspired vocal line. It then gallops on busily. “Sometimes I feel like my life is a mess” goes a line on “Songbird”. Ms Blyth sounds as if she is singing a folk song for a few friends. Again this is a nice song, conjuring up visions of long colourful dresses round a camp fire. The production is good and although on the face it’s all very simple, but in reality there are many ingredients. An undoubted strength is the harmony of mood between the musicianship and the vocals. “Pleasant and calming” would be an apt description. Steady melodies and carefree vocals abound. This album would appeal to anyone with an inclination for compelling, soft rhythms, smooth vocals and well-constructed songs. As I listened to “Night Stalker” as “wow, this is nice”. Instrumentally, it has a Steely Dan type ambiance, but it’s essentially a pop song and could have been sung by Karen Carpenter. “Aching”, which closes the album, is more reflective and vaguely mystical. Again a soft pop song, it has that dreamy and gentle side which characterise much of this album. The song builds up to make something out of the calm and pacifying instrumentals which are such a feature of this album.
I can’t say that I would normally listen to this sort of melodic rock but I do recognise that “Honey and Lava” has good technical qualities and succeeds in creating a calming atmosphere which is likely to appeal to old prog rock fans, folk music lovers and people who just like nice songs.