Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Album Review: Lucid Fly - Building Castles In Air

There are certain bands that, despite reaching success, don't spread a web of influence out over those who come after. It's not always apparent what that is, but for some reason, they don't inspire followers to pick up the thread of their music and spin something new from it. Their sound does not incubate, but instead solidifies in the amber of time, remaining a curious fossil of a particular moment.

That sounds profound, but it's really just my way of getting to the point that Lucid Fly carries influences from A Perfect Circle, who are a band that I can't say I've heard much of in any bands since. That alone makes them unique. Then saying that they play a brand of modern/prog rock that is dark and atmospheric, powered by a throaty female voice, makes them something worth singling out.

You don't have to get far into the opener, "Billowy And Broken", before that influence makes itself apparent. There is a distinct feeling to the guitars, as they weave around each other to set a mood, that is ripped right from that playbook. It is certainly not the normal way of writing modern rock/metal. There's more nuance and texture to these compositions than you're used to hearing in four minute increments.

Even though the band doesn't extend these songs into lengthy diatribes, there are those elements of prog that remind us we're listening to something more involved than your typical radio band. Even in these running times, the songs ebb and flow, build up and break down, shifting their sounds often enough to avoid the standard verse/chorus formula (not that I find it a problem - there's a reason song structure became mostly standardized). We aren't talking full-throated prog that would scare away people for whom it's a dirty word, but just enough flavoring to make sure you're paying attention throughout.

And it's in that regard that my one criticism of the album appears. While I love the mood that the band is able to set, and while the guitar work is far more interesting than a lot of what I have to listen to, the slight prog bent to the album is also felt in the melodic constructions. There's plenty of nicely melodic moments that are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to, but the one thing that's missing are a few of those towering moments that will stick with you long after the album is over. Like the subdued mood of the album, the hooks are also more on the subtle side. They're still good, but they will require more listening before they fully set in. Personally, I think instant gratification is as important as lasting satisfaction.

The one song that fits that bill most of all is "Visions Of Grandeur", the first single and from which the album title is pulled. On that track, not only do we get a more rousing melody, but in it we can hear Nikki Layne at her best. She holds back from what she's capable of to fit the music, but when she does let loose, she has more than enough talent to tear down the house.

So what we have in "Building Castles In Air" is a fantastic sounding record (seriously, the production if gorgeous) that reminds me of a very particular moment in time (people of a certain age know what I'm talking about). There isn't a lot of music being made like this right now, and Lucid Fly is a nice reminder that there are more ways of making rock and metal than the standard routes we hear so often. "Building Castles In Air" is a fantastic way to spend a gloomy autumn day, and I hope is just the start of a longer career.

*Editor's note: In the interest of disclosure, I should make it clear that I assisted the band by providing information to help them organize the release and promotion of this album.

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