Bristol-based rock band Crimson Sky established a reputation with the 2009′s album “Misunderstood” and some well-received gigs including a strong performance at the 2010 Cambridge Rock Festival. Unfortunately that lineup of the band imploded soon after, and for a while the continued existence of the band was in doubt.
After a lengthy hiatus the band regrouped earlier this year with a brand new lineup featuring Jane Setter on vocals and Moray McDonald on keys. Following some successful gigs that proved the new-look band had what it takes, the band went into the studio to record a four-track EP; two brand new songs, and two reworkings of songs from “Misunderstood”.
The EP opens with an atmospheric keyboard drone accompanied by bells, which leads into the eastern-flavoured guitar figure that forms the intro to “Crimson Sky”, the first of two new numbers. By the time the full band kick in one thing that’s very apparent is the quality of the production; the sound is both polished and powerful. This is prog-rock with the emphasis on Rock.
Next comes the re-recording of lengthy ballad “The Sea”, featuring an extended guitar workout. The second new number “The Park” has the feel of slightly punky Uriah Heep with it’s organ riff and energetic vocal. The EP closes with “After the Rain” with something of an indie vibe with it’s jangling guitar, at least until we get to the solo.
Changing a vocalist always has a big impact on a band’s sound. In Crimson Sky’s case, Jane Setter neither copies the previous singer’s style nor completely changes the sound of the band. She’s got greater range, but although her background is more ‘classic rock’ there’s still a touch of 80s new-wave about her vocal style. She makes her mark on the old songs without radically reinterpreting them, and then goes on to show just what she can do on the new ones.
The dominant instrumental sound is still Martin Leamon’s fluid lead guitar. There are moments, especially on “The Sea” that remind me of Twelfth Night’s Andy Revell. The other thing that strongly impresses is Moray McDonald’s keyboard playing. Much is his playing is understated, adding colour rather than playing lead, but he shines on “The Park” with that great organ riff and some lovely piano later in the song. There’s more than a touch of Marillion’s Mark Kelly about his playing, especially his solo on “Crimson Sky”.
The end result is an impressive progressive rock record that manages to avoid most of the obvious clichés of the genre. Let’s hope it isn’t too long before the band follow it up with a full-length album.