DIAGONAL – Diagonal (Rise Above)
When I first read that Brighton seven-piece Diagonal played modern progressive rock with a King Crimson influence I was a bit dubious, but just a brief listen to the opening track confirms that this is very much the case. ‘Semi Permeable Men-brane’ starts of with repetitive guitar stabs over synth chords until the whole band kicks in, and then the guitar, organ, and mellotron interplay show where the KC comparisons come from. The music is progressive in the classic sense of the word, with time signatures and tempos challenging conceptions, but the band are not afraid to rock out in the middle eight with a great jazzy organ solo. ‘Child Of The Thundercloud’ starts of with a gentle piano introduction, but when the band come in it turns into a good mid-paced rocker, before leading into a more jazz-influenced section where the horns make their presence felt and the band go all out for a climactic ending. ‘Deathwatch’ is a KC influenced ballad, with yearning vocals and electric piano giving it a spectral quality, which the band use to lull you in before turning it up a notch to rock out at the end. ‘Cannon Misfire’ is a modern jazz-rock masterpiece, not heard since those heady days of the early 70’s when the Krautrock boom was in full flow, where guitar, sax and mellotron all come together over a killer rhythm to create a superb piece of music. ‘Pact’ closes the album with a lengthy track which is more rock based, but which still has impressive playing from all the band. It is a song in two distinct sections, with the first half being less prog than some of the other tracks - but still great music – before winding down to a more ambient feel which owes more than a little to Eno, until the guitars return at the end for a great coda. For a debut by a new band this is a most assured album, and for prog fans who found The Mars Volta just a little bit hard going then Diagonal are the acceptable face of modern progressive rock.