Review Summary: A great debut full of accessible and melodic modern prog rock.
It might be considered slightly ambitious to kick off your debut album with a 22 minute song. I suppose if your music consists of ponderous post-rock monoliths that dress up a lack of ideas with drawn out atmospherics it might be understandable but for a more traditional progressive rock band it's quite a bold statement. Such an extended opening cut hints at a group who follow the well-tread symphonic path championed by the likes of Yes and Genesis but Synaesthesia eschew the more self indulgent and experimental excesses of the prog rock canon and prefer to veer towards the more accessible and melodic end of the spectrum. In spite of a propensity to avoid time sig wankery and drawn-out instrumental sections the aforementioned opener still manages to entertain throughout its running time due to a boundless inventiveness and a great ear for soaring melodies.
The driving force behind the band is 20 year old multi-instrumentalist Adam Worne and it's quite impressive how one of such tender years manages to incorporate his numerous influences into such consistently ambitious and assured songwriting. Musical synaesthetes apparently experience the phenomenon of joined senses whereby a certain musical note or timbre arouses perceptions of different colours, sounds or even flavours. Whether the band name Synaesthesia is meant to indicate that Adam experiences this phenomenon or not the album is certainly evocative and involving throughout. The band's influences are apparent in places with the spectre of Steven Wilson looming in the background on occasion and there is a nod to Alan Parsons Project on the superb 'Good Riddance' with its jerky little rhythms, soaring choruses and vocal synthesizers but they never descend into anything approaching parody.
While the vocals don't particularly stand out the twin guitar work throughout the album is excellent and provides a suitably aggressive counterpoint to the lush and inventive keyboard work. This is a modern sound for sure and the up front production coupled with the band's willingness to inject some muscle into the sound ensures that the retro qualities of some of the music are kept in check. Away from the more reflective keyboard driven songs Synaesthesia succeed in delivering a credible rocker in the form of 'Sacrifice' with its smooth hard rock riffs and the instrumental 'Noumenon', although lifting heavily from an old Triumph song for its main theme, is another pearl. By the end of the album one might wish for a bit more experimentation and 'Life's What You Make Of It', although eminently listenable, tends to fade out of the consciousness due to its generic feel. Hopefully Synaesthesia will venture forth in future releases and widen their repertoire because there is great potential here. In spite of being a debut release this stands up there with the best prog of the year.