Sebastian Hardie was among the few classic prog rock bands to come out of Australia. Although I had never heard of them before this comeback, I am led to believe they put out a pair of records back in he heyday of ‘prog’, both of which having now received the status of an underground gem. The past year has seen many of the classic prog bands- both legendary and obscure- come out with something new, and considering that the last album by this group dropped in 1976, there has been quite some down time for Sebastian Hardie. ‘Blueprint’ is a matured and tender reflection upon life, and though the band’s sound comes across as a little tame, ‘Blueprint’ is an enjoyable slice of melodic prog that’s bound to earn the band some fans in the new millennium.
Sebastian Hardie’s music draws from the same set of sound as classic-era Genesis, though their approach is noticeably more melodic. Although Sebastian Hardie’s style is a little too based in the lush orchestration of symphonic prog to call them ‘AOR’, ‘Blueprint’ does not underrate the importance of melody . The more accessible tracks, ‘I Wish’ and ‘Art of Life’ are filled with memorable vocal lines from singer Mario Millo, whose voice feels strong, if not very distinctive. The lyrics here are nostalgic and filled with reflections upon life. Like much of the music on ‘Blueprint’, the lyrics tend to wash harmlessly over the listener, for better and worse. Sebastian Hardie give a fairly optimistic view of life, at times brushing against the threshold of cheesiness. Although the vocal melodies feel fairly tame and predictable from a ‘prog’ standpoint, there is passion and sincerity here, and unlike plenty of like-sounding artists who disguise themselves behind a wall of esoteric lyrical nonsense, Sebastian Hardie keep their message straight and to the point.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, Sebastian Hardie’s melodies are at their best when they are purely instrumental. Although the songwriting is often built around the singing, the instrumental passages on ‘Blueprint’ are what really elevate it above mere decency. The instrumentals are rooted in the canon of symphonic prog, complete with lush keyboards and guitar flourishes that remain difficult to dissociate from Yes’ Steve Howe. Tracks ‘Vuja De’ and ‘Shame’ are excellently composed pieces of music. Although the instrumentation may at times flirt with complexity, the melody is still at the forefront of what Sebastian Hardie are aiming for with their music, but it comes off as much more interesting than the more restrained vocal moments. ‘Blueprint’ is essentially a split between the excellent symphonic prog instrumentals and decent, laid-back art rock. The two directions Sebastian Hardie take with the album are similar stylistically, but weigh differently in terms of perceived quality and enjoyment. Had Sebastian Hardie put out a full album that rivaled the orchestration of ‘Vuja De’ or the album’s closer, I would have been blown away. As it stands, ‘Blueprint’ is a very good, but not quite excellent record from the Australian group. Symphonic, or even Neo Prog lovers will find much to love in this, but the album fails to impress me throughout.
1. I Wish
2. Vuja de
3. Art of Life
4. I Remember
5. Another String
* Alex Plavsic – drums, percussion
* Peter Plavsic – bass guitar
* Mario Millo – lead guitar, vocals, mandolin
* Toivo Plit – keyboards