Touchstone - The City Sleeps
Steamhammer
Progressive Rock
10 songs (1:02:34)
Release year: 2011
Touchstone, Steamhammer
Reviewed by Goat

Having touched my heart with their rather excellent 2008 album Wintercoast, rising British progsters Touchstone are back with their third album, and it’s a brilliant one. The City Sleeps may lack Wintercoast’s Jeremy Irons narration, but it makes up for it in so many ways. It’s heavier, more progressive, more experimental, and more mature, with better songwriting and even better performances. Musically, this is a follow-on from Wintercoast, with the same blend of hard rockin’ tunes and progressively-structured songs led by Kim Seviour’s delightful vocals. Catchy hooks and technical flourishes are brought together perfectly, getting the balance exactly right between tickling heart and mind.

As ever, it’s in the songwriting itself that the real gems are found, and with opener Corridors setting the scene with Yes-y keyboard meanderings galore, the band don’t let you down once. The ten-minute When Shadows Fall is excellent, opening with electronic ambience before instrumental trade-offs and Seviour’s vocals begin telling the track’s story. Shades of Dream Theater are audible before keyboardist Rob Cottingham takes the lead in a lovely melodic section, the two vocalists proving two are better than one elsewhere. It’s hard to find fault with a band who interject melodic keyboard pieces with a hard-rocking guitar-led song like These Walls, let alone one that can construct something like Throw Them To The Sky around such infectious riffing...

...Not that you’ll be spending much time listening out for faults, so good is The City Sleeps. Whether it’s semi-ballads like Sleeping Giants with genuine emotional heft, or the prog metal pizzazz of Good Boy Psycho, probably the most experimental piece on the album. My favourite track has to be the just-shy-of twelve minutes title track, which hits new epic heights as Cottingham again takes the lead vocals and Anna-Marie Wayne (daughter of ‘War of the Worlds’ composer Jeff) provides narration. This ultimately isn’t the sort of album you get for the technical wizardry of its musicians, but for simply enjoying the songs – and it’s the songwriting that really pushes The City Sleeps into the premier league. It’s been good to see them sign to a bigger label, and to play at a festival alongside everyone from ELP to ZZ Top... with albums like this under their belt, Touchstone can only go from strength to strength.

Killing Songs :
Corridors, When Shadows Fall, These Walls, Throw Them To The Sky, Good Boy Psycho, The City Sleeps
Goat quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Touchstone that we have reviewed:
Touchstone - Wintercoast reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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