Living up to its title, a wings-rustling spiritual return of the ’90s progressive heroes that was well worth waiting for.
“This is not personal universe”, goes one song here, and in lesser hands than those of this U.K. band’s, it could’ve been a capital sentence for prog rock, but then Tracy Hitchings engages in “emotional blackmail” of the intense epic “Turbulence” to accuse someone of being no angel. Perhaps, that’s simpler than being the entities of the title track, a tremendous pop song which grows and grows in scope to take the listener on a buzzing flight above the silver-lined clouds and over the rainbow. Yet noblesse oblige, and there’s not a single moment on the group’s fifth studio work – their first since 1998 – where instrumental virtuosity gets in the way of feelings or melody.
Thus, “Mountains Of Anglia” may spring from GENESIS’ “Firth Of Fifth”, but Dave Wagstaffe’s blissfully motorik drums propel it to the delta of a different kind, with a slider roll over the strings. Nowadays, it’s not often that you hear musicians of such a genre stripe switch into a blues gear like guitarist Uwe D’Rose and guest sax player Laurent Hunziker do on this piece and on “Lovers”, while “Friends” swings out into a gospel-infused plea from the singer who, having beaten cancer, knows the value of life too well. And when acoustic layer of another epic, “Calm Before The Storm”, provides a safety net of Mike Varty’s piano, the serenity is blown away as riffs get sharpened and angry rapping underpins the vocal huskiness. Angels are prone to falling, you know.
This piece throws a bridge to a touching “Stormbrewing” vignette that’s housed on a bonus disc, alongside compositions such as transparent “Timeline” which the band took to the stage together with the songs written for the album before its recording. And with “Thunderstruck” harking a decade back, there’s no doubt the band “is right for the scene” today. A monumental landmark of rare beauty.