Review Summary: Breathe.
When Jon Courtney watches his newborn daughter through the glass wall in the intensive care unit his whole life passes in front of him. She has come to this world prematurely, and she can’t breathe like you and I. One of those thoughts speaks of Pure Reason Revolution, the band to which he has dedicated most of his musical career, and that in these times of uncertainty and desolation becomes an uninvited but warming feeling.
Pure Reason Revolution disbanded in 2011 after releasing their third album, Hammer and Anvil
the year before. At the time, it was clear the band had, at least, one last album in them, but the core was broken, the magic was gone. Bass and Moog sorcerer Chloe Alper had started her own project, Tiny Giant, while participating as a session musician for UK pop star Charlie XCX. Jon Courtney had moved to Berlin, where he worked as a producer while trying to find that lost spark with a new project called Bullet Height.
None of these new projects came to fruition the way PRR did in the past, so around 2018, Pure Reason Revolution’s flame was rekindled. Former guitarist Greg Jong was invited by Courtney to his home studio in Berlin to work on some demos. The recordings reached Alper, the magic happened again, and the rest is history.
is Pure Reason Revolution’s fourth release, the first in ten years, and in spite of not having former members Jamie Wilcox (guitar, vocals) and Paul Glover (drums), it manages to capture the band’s sound like if that ten years gap had never happened. Session drummer Geoff Dugmore has a more powerful style than Glover, which has provided the band with a punch that they didn’t have since their emblematic debut, The Dark Third
. The band’s genre-defining first album is the fountain from where most of Eupnea
draws its sound. There are callbacks to the more electric era of sophomore Amor Vincit Omnia
in a more moderate measure in a track like “Maelstrom”, but it’s the progressive rock of The Dark Third
combined with the band’s intrincate web of vocal harmonies what defines the essence of Eupnea
The production, carried out by Paul Northfield (Dream Theatre, Rush), who already worked with them as an engineer in The Dark Third
, is immense. Simply put, the band has never sounded this great. And the same can be said regarding the material contained in the band’s latest release. Eupnea
offers 6 tracks, with some of them being the longest songs they’ve ever recorded, but the way the songs transition and the balance between quiet parts and heavy riffs, along with the usual vocal excellency, makes up for how many years the fans of the band have craved for that new album that, no one could have imagined, it would happen just ten years later.
Singles “New Obsession” and “Silent Genesis” have already paved the way months ago into this new release. The former opens the album with a shorter, condensed version of the band’s sound, boasting a gorgeous chorus; hearing Chloe Alper and Jon Courtney’s voices unravel in unison again is a gift from the heavens above. “Silent Genesis” sounds like a song extracted straight out from The Dark Third
, starting with a floydian
passage of sliding guitars and vocal blankets before exploding in a prog mid tempo first and a middle jam later, ending with one of the heaviest moments of the album.
That was known territory, but it was just the beginning. Like stated above, “Maelstrom” follows up, led by Alper’s voice and soon joined by Courtney’s, immediately recalling the bucolic feel of songs like “Apogee”, from Amor Vincit Omnia
. “Ghosts & Typhoons” is the latest single from Eupnea
and it’s also the closest to PRR’s blend of styles in their third album, Hammer and Anvil
. “Beyond our Bodies” is the shortest track, a laid back tune, almost an interlude when compared to the rest of the songs in the album, but it serves as the perfect introduction to the colossal title and closing track, “Eupnea”.
”, is repeated like a mantra by a myriad of voices, echoing Courtney’s feelings when looking at his daughter through the glass wall. “Eupnea”, the unconscious act of breathing we all perform and that keeps us alive, becomes the central idea throughout the album but it unfolds fully in this fantastic progressive rock eulogy. Geoff Dugmore’s drumming shines here, the string arrangements blend with a whole array of keyboard melodies, ground shaving guitar riffs and embellished vocals building up to a gran finale in a way that only Pure Reason Revolution can pull off almost effortlessly.
It might be too early to say Eupnea
is the band’s best album up to date, as the rest of their catalogue, it needs time to settle in, but what’s clear is that everything that made them a special band in the progressive rock scene is still there, and I dare to say, better than ever. And as Courtney’s daughter grew up beautiful and healthy after her troubled arrival to this world, so is my wish that the same translates to the band’s career in the future.