Diagonal – The Second Mechanism

Back in 2008, after the astonishingly young Diagonal arrived fully formed seemingly out of nowhere…well, Brighton actually…gifting the world one the best prog debut albums of the noughties, reviewed favourably in many places, and the world seemed to be their oyster.

Unfortunately, as is the wont with bands who appeal to minority audiences, a derailing awaited just around the corner. Two core members of the original seven-piece outfit left, and a whole album’s worth of material was scrapped or re-rerecorded by the remaining 5 members, and 4 years later the result, Second Mechanism, is now spinning in my CD player.

The sound is different from before, with a more open albeit darker feel. The old Crimson (early 70s version) and VdGG influences are still there only less prevalent, and I am put in mind of a more Scandinavian bent, particularly the on opener Voyage/Paralysis, which would not sound out of place on a Gösta Berlings Saga album.

Those classic prog influences return on These Yellow Sands and Mitochondria, and we witness a modern take on the old VdGG/Crimson hybrid, which after a languorous start eventually drives along at pace, melding space rock with a jazzy vibe. Not quite the attention-grabbing stuff of the first album, but good nonetheless.

Just when you were wondering where the vocals credited on the CD cover appear, along comes Hulks, at nearly 11 minutes the longest track on the album. The Crimson comparison is enhanced by reed player Nicholas Whittaker’s lead voice being uncannily similar to Gordon Haskell on the Lizard album. After a verse or two the song extrapolates into a dark and dense affair with some nice guitar buried in the no-doubt intended murk of the production. Played loud this song hits all the right buttons, and is worth the entry price alone. A pounding beat under a spinning cyclical riff and some syncopated reed blowing in the mid-section will have you nodding your head vigorously, methinks! Some nice and almost free-jazz squawking soon resolves itself into a calmer section as the song turns round and heads for the exit, Nicholas’s voice returning for a menacing climatic ending featuring some firey guitaring and doomy chanting. Very nice indeed.

It seems I’ve gone for a blow-by-blow description here for once, so it would be remiss of me to omit Capsizing which goes for a spacey vibe from the off, Luke Foster’s clattering drums eventually anchoring a mid-tempo voyage with much sax. I notice that Robbie Wilson is credited as a guest on trumpet and flugelhorn, and together with Nicholas they make a good reeds’n’brass combo, firing off one another with panache. Robbie and Luke also form half of that other Brighton band, the marvellously beguilingAutumn Chorus, who could not be more different from Diagonal. Damn, these are talented guys!

This record probably would have suffered somewhat in comparison with the wonderful debut even if nothing had changed line-up wise, but as it stands, it is probably best to view this album as a second debut rather than a second album per se. Definitely worth a listen, I’d say.

Tracklist:

Voyage/Paralysis (6:12)
These Yellow Sands (7:59)
Mitochondria (9:41)
Hulks (10:46)
Capsizing (9:10)

Line-up:

* Luke Foster – drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals
* Ross Hassack – synthesisers, harmonium, backing vocals
* Nicholas Richards – bass guitar, mellotron, synthesiser, backing vocals
* Nicholas Whittaker – alto saxophone, clarinet, lead and backing vocals
* David Wileman – electric guitars, backing vocals

Guests:

* Alex Crispin – synthesisers, backing vocals
* Robbie Wilson – trumpet, flugelhorn, backing vocals

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/diagonalband

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