GDM doesn’t review prog releases often these days, however, we will continue to take an interest in Steve Newman’s work, including Compass.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: Theory Of Tides
LABEL: Escape Music
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Ben Green – vocals * Steve Newman – guitars, keyboards, backing vocals * Dave Bartlett – bass * Toni Lakush – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Mountains On The Moon * 02 Searching For Answers * 03 The Assayer * 04 Once In A Lifetime * 05 Laws Of Nature Dialogue I: Fly To The Sun * 06 Laws Of Nature Dialogue II: God Only Knows * 07 Laws Of Nature Dialogue III: This Pendulum Swings * 08 Theory Of Tides
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We took a look at this British quartet during the middle of 2020, right in the thick of the COVID madness. Their debut ‘Our Time On Earth’ received a healthy rating on GDM, and was one of the better prog/melodic rock albums of that year. Two years on, Compass are back for album #2 with band membership and record label intact. Also, the song structures and style remain in place, so too the number of songs onboard, totalling 8. For this album, it is a concept work based on the life of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who lived in the 16th century, so yes we are very much in the land of Prog Central.
It’s that old adage – the more things change, the more they stay the same. There are no shortcuts to be found on the album, all of the songs are well over the 5 minute mark, which means we are dealing with a typical progressive rock collection rather than standard AOR or melodic rock fare.
Take for instance – the near 11 minute opener ‘Mountains On The Moon’. For mine, it might appear to be too much to digest for an entrée, but if you stick with it, it’ll all come together. There are no discernible segments as such, the track flows nicely, the sound is sharp, clean and full. Cutting next to ‘Searching For Answers’, the Compass team lay it on with precision and clarity. It contains the melody you’d expect from Newman’s day job band hybridized with the more complex nuances of modern prog. It’s a good merger.
‘The Assayer’ sees Compass undulate between initial soothing verses and high impact choruses. The track builds momentum as it moves through its 8 minute run-time. ‘Once In A Lifetime’ is the album’s offset moment, fluid and melodic though it’s lacking a solo spot. Neither a guitar nor keyboard solo fills in the space.
The album’s piece-de-resistance is the three part suite ‘Laws Of Nature Dialogue’. Here we get definite separation with three individual pieces making up the whole. ‘Fly To The Sun’ sees Galileo trying to understand the world around him, much like many of his peers throughout this dark time in history. As a footnote, the keyboard solo is rather tasty too. ‘God Only Knows’ the second segment reminds me a bit of Saga. Yes, Compass might be singing about 16th century astronomy and science even if the music is undeniably modern. The third part ‘This Pendulum Swings’ drops the intensity a notch or two. There’s a Genesis vibe going on here, though the chorus and double kick drums does change the sound a bit.
The title track ‘Theory Of Tides’ is probably the purist prog track on offer here, changing identity throughout with regularity. I used the word ‘undulate’ earlier, it applies liberally on this one as the style changes often.
To my way of thinking, no region probably does prog better than the UK, and for music of this quality there must surely be an active market for such releases. One need only look at recent releases by British contemporaries within this genre to understand how strong the scene is. GDM doesn’t review new prog releases that often these days, as there are more specific websites that focus on that genre. However, we will continue to take an active interest in Steve Newman’s work, including Compass.
Searching For Answers
Laws Of Nature Dialogue – Fly To The Sun
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