Who remembers the good old days of vinyl? 40 odd minutes of music over two sides. No sooner had you sat down you were up again to turn the record over? Great times, and so it’s refreshing that Marcel, 4th Labyrinth’s leader and main songwriter has taken us back to yesteryear by giving us just over forty minutes of music from the starting 2-minute-long intro (called Intro) to the end epic seven-minute ‘Make It Mine’.
The first song is a belter, with driving basslines and drums accentuated by some Deep Purple like keys and guitar makes the listener realise that the band have made their second album heavier and are referring to influences of prog and classic rock. Called ‘This Is Rock n Roll’ it has a catchy chorus and is bound to be a firm live favourite.
The title track comes next and rises and falls with some quite gentle moments interspersed with heavier parts too. Marcel uses all of his incredible range in order to make the track really interesting. Again Marcel shows his song craftsmanship by giving another memorable hook line which draws the listener in quickly.
On a good quality hi-fi system, you can clearly hear all of the instruments with each one complementing the other. This seems like a super tight cohesive band who are clearly enjoying themselves and playing together. In comparison to the first album, Andrew Cross on lead guitar has been given a freer role and he has produced some great solos which add something to the song as opposed to being there purely for the sake of need. Drumming from Tom Winch, brother of Hard Rock Hell Radio’s very own Toby is solid showing a feel and a groove. Marcel, a classically trained piano player uses his keyboards so well, and in my eyes, the use of a Hammond organ is always a good thing, and he uses it to great effect reminding me of such greats such as Jon Lord (RIP) and Georgie Fame.
For anyone who has seen the band live will know they have a jewel in Claudia McKenzie – the happiest most inspiring bass player out there. Blessed with the ability to soothe the listeners with some subtle lines one second and then the next rock out hard is a tribute to her abilities. Wholly photogenic and impossible not to watch when on the stage (and with a natty collection of cool boots) her playing seems to be recorded perfectly.
As I say a band on the up. A band who will be unmissable at HRH Prog this year and so deserving of their slot on the bill.
‘Keep Me From Falling’ shows its Prog roots and has evolved over the past few years. The riff throughout the heavier parts is clever. It sounds as if you’ve heard it on those great albums from the seventies and yet you don’t know where from. Is it paying homage to the band’s heroes or is it completely new, it’s up to us to decide. And that’s a good thing. Modern with an older twist and compels the listener to replay it time and again.
‘Your Symphony’ starts with a simple keyboard riff which continues throughout the song. Layers of sound get added and added resulting in a very radio-friendly song which should bring them a new fanbase. With a retro feel, and again some impressive high notes from Marcel this is music which seems to be all the rage again at the present time. However, many attempt it but not all succeed. This is the latter.
‘I’m a Hunter’ hits from the start. This could be Rainbow, again a perfect riff chugging along as one, but again individual instruments can be picked out. Hats off to Andrew who has added short patterns of notes which could have been laid down by one Mr R Blackmore. See if you can hear them. Clever stuff. The song is a crowd favourite already and defines the 4th Lab sound to a tee.
‘This Feeling’ starts with a simple synth sound and vocals and continues for the first minute until the band kicks in but the keyboards play a big part throughout. With a whoa whoa (are these real words) singalong and a stellar solo from Andrew as well the song seems to build and build but then finish possibly a little too quickly for my own ears, a slight criticism but one only borne out my hope to hear more.
The last track, ‘Make it Mine’, is a classic rock song. Wind sounds get taken over by a wonderfully hypnotic bassline and drums. This start is an earworm. It simply takes you over. Cleverly in parts, the lead guitar takes over from Claudia but uses the same riff, until all four come together in a massive sound of arena-sized epic proportions. This is a song which needs backdrops and lighting rigs. This is up there with anything out there in the same ilk. We get another great solo and surely Andrew’s finest hour and then Marcel takes over with a wonderful solo and we are back to the hypnotic bass and drums again. We even get atmospheric whispers before the last minute of the song reaches a crescendo before stopping. And that’s it. It’s over.
We have been truly gifted this year with British bands releasing some brilliant music. Rock music is not dead. It is bands like 4th Labyrinth who are keeping the scene alive. The album captures the band’s triumphant live appearances which are so infectious and puts them down over a forty-minute smorgasbord of pure unadulterated pomp/prog/hard rock genius.
Some of the nicest caring people on the scene – I’m honoured to have them as friends and after this is released I’m sure they will make a lot more.
“Better” is out on 4th October. Tickets for the launch party can be found here!