STELLA POLARIS – Stella Polaris (Stone Premonitions)

Stella Polaris is this month’s name for Tim Jones and co.’s band, and this is their first release. (Is he doing it so that every album release is a debut?!) Anyway, pretty much the same line-up as Freedom, give or take the odd member, so luckily I know what to expect when I slide the disc into the player. ‘Off With Their Heads’ starts off all Floydian guitar loops and dreamy synths, before a cracking guitar solo creeps through and turns what I originally thought was going to be laid-back piece of noodling into a controlled and spacey instrumental. This is followed nine minutes later by another superb piece of guitar rock in ‘Ephadream’, with the guitar ringing out through the whole track. ‘Diocin & Widdershins’ goes down the heavy rock route, and while still keeping the guitar as the main focus, it adds in a thudding backbeat for it to work against. There is obviously a story behind ‘So What If They’ve Got Tee Shirts In Denmark’, but taking it purely on a musical level it is a spacey instrumental where the keyboards take over the lead and you drift away to the soothing washes of music. ‘Remembrance’ keeps the hypnotic vibe going and adds in a rhythmic guitar figure to hold it all together, whereas ‘Retroglide’ is a hard rock guitar piece, with a proper tune and everything. ‘The Man Who Never Was’ is a dis-jointed piece of guitar and synth interplay, which sort of works once you get used to the unusual rhythm patterns that it deploys, and ‘Givin’ It Large’ has a Latin feel courtesy of the bongos and clipped guitar chords, and also features the first vocal of the album. I was wondering if there would be any on here, and when The Reverend Rabbit pops up it does actually help to break up the album. The Hendrix-style guitar solo at the end is also something of a departure from the rest of the album, and so in a way it is good to get back to the spacey stuff with ‘Liberation Squared’ and ‘We’re All Egyptians Now’, both of which are guitar driven space rockers, and well up to the standard of the rest of the album. So, despite what I said at the beginning of this review, this was not quite what I expected to hear, but it was a very pleasant surprise to hear Tim and friends going off in a different direction, and musically I have to say I enjoyed this immensely and feel it is one of their best releases by far.
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