Within any genre of music you care to name, you’ll always find a few select leaders, and a whole lot of followers. That’s to say that there’s a few that do what they do exceptionally well, and the rest merely mimic the same sound, without really endeavouring to add anything new to the formula.
But every now and then, you come across some acts that could be coined as innovators. They’re the rare few that take a particular sound or style of music and twist it into a new form that doesn’t sound quite like anything else, and yet sounds strangely familiar. As I said, it’s a rare find, but every now and then, a band presents themselves with a new release that really doesn’t fit the preconceived mould. One such act that has managed to do that is Santiago (Chile) based outfit Aisles, who have managed to produce something altogether different within the realm of neo-progressive/fusion rock on their latest release ‘4:45 AM’.
Following on in the tradition of their two former full-length efforts (Namely 2005’s ‘The Yearning’ and 2009’s ‘In Sudden Walks’), ‘4:45 AM’ is another conceptual effort that is centred around the multitude of emotional challenges that can face ordinary people at 4:45 AM (The time perceived as being on the cusp of night and day), and within the hours that follow. And as you would expect, the abstract conceptual themes behind the album translate through to the music, which seems to encompass a bit of everything.
The opening title track ‘4:45 AM’ (Which is also the album’s first single) is certainly one of the album’s truly stand out moments, with the six piece outfit (Comprising of lead vocalist/keyboardist Sebastián Vergara, guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Germán Vergara, guitarist/backing vocalist Rodrigo Sepúlveda, bassist Daniel Baird-Kerr, keyboardist Alejandro Meléndez and drummer/percussionist Felipe Candia) channelling shades of Arena (Particularly on the vocal front at times) with a bit of ‘80’s Yes (Albeit with less keyboards). With great vocals, catchy choruses, distinctive riffs and innovative song writing, ‘4:45 AM’ has everything you could want from a neo-progressive rock act, and then some.
The follow on track ‘Gallarda Yarura’ opens with a short spoken word cinematic piece before drifting into a Genesis-like instrumental (I’m thinking Steve Hackett era given the guitar work), but with a touch of Latin influence thrown in to give the song that something different from most. In complete contrast to the first couple of tracks on the album, ‘Shallow And Daft’ is rooted more in ‘80’s synth-pop than anything progressive rock related, but strangely enough is every bit as infectious and appealing as the opener.
‘Back My Strength’ is one of the tracks that initially didn’t do much for me. There’s no denying the emotion that Germán injects into the song, but he sounds at times like he’s straining to hit the notes required (It’s evident more at the beginning of the song than anywhere else). And around the middle of the song, the guitars tend to sound a little harsher than I thought they should. But after a while, this ballad-like number did grow on me. But it’s the latter half of the track where the band delves into more familiar progressive rock territory that really sold the song to me.
The simple acoustics and orchestration on ‘The Sacrifice’ allows the band to bring forth their strong Latin influences to the surfaces in what can be described as a song of strong emotional turmoil, while the guitar work on the atmospheric instrumental ‘Intermission’ (Which is bridged by the short cinematic piece ‘The Ship’) brings to mind King Crimson.
‘Sorrow’, not unlike ‘The Sacrifice’, is an acoustic driven/Latin influenced song that is strong on melodic passages on the vocal front with Constanza Maulén giving plenty of support to Sebastián on the vocal front, while the follow-up instrumental track ‘Hero’ sees the band go to the other extreme genre-wise with influences from the likes of Steven Wilson, Queen (If only for the briefest of moments), John Petrucci, IQ and Arena evident throughout its eight minutes in length. Again, the band proves they’re both great musicians and song writers.
Finishing up the album is the epic ‘Melancholia’, which is every bit as emotive as it is haunting, ever-changing musically and one of Sebastián strongest performances on the album. Much like the way the title track opens the album, the band finish the album with another clear stand out cut.
Finding something unique amongst the masses is no easy task these days. But every now and then, a group does stand out for all the right reasons. In short, Aisles is one of those rare finds, and one that comes highly recommended.
For more information on Aisles, check out - http://www.aislesproject.com/
© Justin Donnelly