Five years after their debut album See You At The End the English progressive rock band Last Flight To Pluto release their next album: A Drop In The Ocean. Long story short, the band didn't stand still in these years. They developed themselves into what they are now: a mature progressive rock band with interesting songs, excellent instrumental skills and a female vocalist which is not one of a kind. This all was rewarded with a record deal at the known White Knight Records. This was not a real coincidence, when the band was recording the opening track Masheena they had the feeling that the song missed something. So they asked Rob Reed to fill in some parts with piano and Moog. Rob Reed is one of the founders of White Knight Records and was obviously convinced by the fact that Last Flight To Pluto had made enough progression to be released on his label.
The band describes their musical style as “modern progressive rock maintaining an old school vibe, thanks to an eclectic list of influences amongst the band members”. I must confess that the band has self-knowledge, this description strikes the core of their music.
The album has striking artwork. The album cover and the folder contain comic strips in bright colors. You can't miss it in catalogs or on internet sites. Because of the fact that it is very professionally designed, I like it very much. But it is not a typical progressive rock cover. Saying that, I ask myself the question “what is a typical progressive rock cover?” Anyway, I hope that you understand what I mean.
Last Flight To Pluto has the following line up: Alice Freya (vocals), Jack Parry (guitar), Ryan Barnard (guitar), Lewis Kreft (Bass) and Darren Joseph (drums). Additional musicians are D. Joseph (keyboards), A. Edwards (keyboards) and Rob Reed (piano and Moog on Masheena). They didn't use dozens of additional musicians. Mostly this means that they are doing it all by themselves or that the music is “basic”. I don't say this to denigrate their music. In the contrary, I love music which is not over the top.
The album opens with the almost 9-minute track Masheena. At the beginning of the track there are some electronic-, industrial sound effects. After a very short time the band starts with a short instrumental intro. The drums create an uplifting atmosphere and are rather up-tempo. After a minute or so Alice Freya starts to sing the first notes. Her voice is something of a surprise. To be honest, I didn't expect that it would be such a high voice. It took me a couple of songs to get used to it. Then it reminded me of the voice of Kate Bush. Bush sings most of the time also in the highest regions of the scales. This comparison implicates directly that Alice Freya technically spoken is an outstanding vocalist. Enough of the vocals, let's continue with the song.
The first minutes of the opening vocal parts have a sad atmosphere in a low tempo. The song continues with a more mid-tempo section. Quiet passages alternate with more heavy bridges. The production of the album is excellent. The album sounds quite nice with headphones, in ears and with speakers. The song has some staccato parts which have a Rush-like atmosphere. Especially Rush from the late seventies.
Time And Love is the second track of the album and it opens with some electronic drum samples. The following section contains a lot of interesting guitar parts. Both guitarists are playing in some question and answer game. One of the guitars sounds rather clean, the other has a lot of distortion. As a guitarist I like this part. After a short but very melodic guitar solo the song starts to develop itself with the vocals. Once more it is mid-tempo and it has some intermezzos which are more or less “dark”. The bridges and the chorus are also melodic. Therefor the songs stay in your head easily.
Just before the end section starts the keyboards take a little lead. To connect the two passages with Pink Floyd-like soundscapes. In the end section the guitar parts are nice. Once more they are melodic, but that is what I personally like.
The King's Are Dead starts with a heavily distortion on the keyboards. The guitar part in this up-tempo intro is once more Rush-like. The 8-minute track develops itself into a great up-tempo track. Personally, I really like all the guitar parts in the song. Most of the time they are intense and sharp as a knife. Especially the solo parts which are phenomenal. The song has of course a quiet- and lingering section in it. The keyboards are taking the lead in this part. And it's almost obvious that the guitars make the atmosphere complete. At this time, I got completely used to the voice of Alice Freya. And I even find that the voice and the music fit well together.
The opening of Coverland is modest and rather dark. Personally, it's an intro which I like, an intro as most intros should be. It builds up the tension for the rest of the song. Coverland develops into song which has a positive aggression in it. Even the vocals are going slowly to the top. And also, this song has different atmospheres. There is no song on the album which has a monotone character. Every song has his own surprises.
The jazzy intro of Morning Glow is a good example of the surprises in the different songs. In general, the song is mid-tempo and it has very tightened musical parts in it. Guitar parts are staccato in some sections. This gives diversity to the song and brings so much tension that there is never a dull moment.
The album ends with the track Supergirl. The song has a reggae beat and reminds me of No Doubt and even the vocals are in the spirit of Gwen Stefani. The up-tempo parts in the song are rather heavy. But after these intermezzos the band is continue falling back on the reggae beats. Nevertheless, this track can't be indicated as a reggae song. It's just another progressive rock song with reggae influences. I must confess that I like this adventure. I maybe find it one of the strongest tracks of the album.
Last Flight To Pluto are a very interesting band. They have great musical skills, an excellent vocalist and the dare to look beyond the musical limits. I know they take some risk, because not everyone likes musical adventures. There are of course listeners who will always stay in their musical cages. There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone has to do what he or she thinks it's the best for him or her. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this band. Before this adventure, I had never heard of them.
As a reviewer I get rather a lot of albums at home. Albums on which I have to make a personal opinion. I always say “personal”. Although I try to give an honest- and objective opinion, there are always pitfalls in which I will fall. There are albums, after which I have reviewed them, I store in my collection and probably never will take out again. But this album will find its way to my CD-player again. That's for sure.
And yes, I had to get used to the total package of this band. But once I got used to it, I start to love it. Instead of love of first sight it was first a more or less Platonic love. Once it took me, I was amazed by the fact that I hadn't come across the band earlier.
A Drop In The Ocean is a surprising-, fresh-, alternating album. Last Flight To Pluto has succeeded to bring the neo progressive rock to another level. I hope that more progressive rock lovers will give this band a try. For sure I am going to try to get possession of their debut album. I am curious how this will sound through my speakers and of course I am curious about the development of the band.
**** Aad Bannink (edited by Dave Smith)
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