Crystal Palace - Scattered Shards

Year of Release: 2018
Label: Progressive Promotion Records
Catalog Number: PPR-063
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:50:30

Back in March 2019 I was listening to music by artists scheduled for the then upcoming Winter's End Festival. One of those bands was Crystal Palace, who I had heard of only by dint of their having sent for review The System Of Events (2013). While that album has not - ahem - yet been reviewed (as of this writing), I thought I would start with their most recent, 2018's Scattered Shards.

I think I might have been listening to a different album of theirs in March (via Spotify), as most of my notes reference Marillion strongly. But listening to Scattered Shards now, it is not of Marillion I think of first -- sure, there is the main guitar rhythm of "Inside Your Dreams," and some the vocal impressions are Fish-like - but it is overall a passing reference.

A bit of their bio, Crystal Palace got their start in the mid-90s releasing their first album, On The Edge Of The World in 1995. Over the years, there have been many personnel changes - what's new? The only remaining original member is bassist/vocalist Jens Uwe Strutz (or "Yenz"), and Scattered Shards is, as others have noted, the first album to have the same lineup as the previous.

If I were to give you just the 30,000 foot view on this album, I'd say: this German quartet mixes heavy prog (Threshold, Arena, Pendragon, and Pallas, to name a few) with a bit of electronic music (my point of reference is Tangerine Dream). There is, of course much more of the former, and less of the latter (it is most apparent towards the end of "Inside The Box.") Their main prog influences seem to be from the UK, as my parenthetical list above would suggest, and which can be said of many a prog rock band, I know. Much as Genesis and Yes cast a long shadow over the 80s-born prog bands, so do these UK bands cast a long shadow of the 90s-born prog bands (and for either generation, much farther than just the UK and Europe). As do the bands I reference (and more), the music takes you on a journey.

Throughout the album there is a churning darkness. I wouldn't call them heavy metal (no more than I would call any heavy prog/neo-prog band "metal") - though listening to the urgent, aggressive "Collateral," one might beg to differ. Overall, this album is intense, earnest, and dramatic. Again, as is most heavy progressive rock - heavy in both sound and message. The opening track begins as a sparse - but lush - piano and vocal piece, told in the first person, and lyrically sets the stage for the album to come. As it builds, added are strings and flute (or synth generated strings/flute). It is in the transition from the opening track to "Scattered Shards" that the Tangerine Dream thought comes in - darkly atmospheric keys create a throbbing atmosphere. "Scattered Shards" itself is a shimmering piece that is both heavy and light, with passages of acoustic guitar leavening the moments when Nils Conrad lets 'er rip, as they say, in a searing, soaring guitar solo. The following track, "Inside Your Dreams," also shimmers sounding at once modern with its mild techno-pop feel to it, and also classic with its nods to not only solo Fish and Mike and The Mechanics. It is proggy and accessible at the same time.

There are times where the heaviness gives way to lighter fare, such as in "SICI,"** which is, for a good part of the track, quite languid. At times it is very sparse; at other times quite explosive. Something those UK bands - especially my closest-to-my-heart Marillion - employ as well. Again, that whole light/dark dynamic that enhances the whole. Beyond that, it is here where I hear those heavy bass tones that marked Marillion's music in their early days -- first two albums to be sure, and up to the post-Fish years. And speaking again of Fish I can't help but think of solo Fish in "The Logic Of Fear" - circa Internal Exile. This is a track that also made me think of The Moody Blues for some reason - perhaps the harmonized vocals - and of The Flower Kings (who are fresh on my mind*). The Flower Kings come to mind again during "Crave," which also mixes things up with a sometimes grinding, kaleioscopic arrangemets, wheeling about like ... like a dog commandeering a car and driving it backwards in circles! (Yes, that (supposedly) happened; Google it!).

All in all, it is an enjoyable album that hits all the right prog spots - beautiful guitar solos, tasteful keyboards passages that are neither overly widdly nor completely hidden, driving bass and percussion that move things forward and pleasant vocals; shades of light and dark to underscore the whole, meaning this is neighther overbearing nor underwhelming. Crystal Palace fit comfortably among their prog rock brethren.

*I reviewed Desolation Rose just a few days before this writing.

**Elsewhere I've seen this listed as "Simply Irresistable Cruel Intentions"... which are lyrics in the song, so understandable.

Inside The Box (5:25) / Scattered Shards (7:30) / Inside Your Dreams (6:56) / The Logic Of Fear (6:48) / Craving (5:22) / Collateral (6:24) / SICI (8:02) / Ouside The Box (4:03)

Nils Conrad - guitars
Frank Köhler - keyboards
Tom Ronney - drums
Jens Uwe Strutz - bass, vocals

On The Edge Of The World (1995)
Demon In Your (2001)
Psychedelic Sleep (2003)
Throughout The Years (2005)
Acoustic Years (2006)
Reset (2010)
Pure (2012)
The System Of Events (2013)
Dawn Of Eternity (2016)
Scattered Shards (2018)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin DE

Added: December 7th 2019
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 4403
Language: english


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