Tomi Kankainen is a veteran lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist from Finland whose 2021 debut “Disconnection Complete” attracted my attention as a project that might just have some legs, in a contemporary style somewhat near Riverside, Pineapple Thief, Karibow and Lonely Robot but adding a plethora of classic prog touches as well as an overall personal sheen. As if communicating in silent ESP, he recently offered me to review his latest sophomore work, scheduled for mid-November release, containing 9 tracks and the return of collaborators Petri Honkonen on drums and the lush guitar theatrics of Markus Jamsen. The cover art is off the charts gorgeous, azure skies and pinkish clouds will slay me every single time. This is one of those albums that took me three spins to really sink in, as its quite dense, potent and demanding.
Powerful riffs and percolating synths combine with a nuclear drum assault to hammer home the impression that this just might be quite a discovery for many unfamiliar with this band. Yes, there is an undeniable similitude with Mariusz Duda’s seminal voice as well as the more muscular disposition of the Riverside material at hand. “Atom Child” is delightfully playful with contrasts as well as loaded with all the little details that keeps prog fans on their toes, ready, alert and salivating. The fissure-less segue into “Secondhand Escape”, a tighter, grab the jugular rant that has immediate appeal, as well as a lusty syncopated drum pattern, that accentuates the sense of evading reality. Another notch upwards in intensity with its close follow up “Do Not Engage the Enemy”, a brash piece with sizzling metallic sensibility, where tortured guitars and razor synths supply the backbone for the vocal plea that is utterly conclusive, especially with the choir assembled in the outro.
No moment of sonic respite on “Phoenix Learns to Fly”, despite a softer heavy modulation that keeps the heartbeat running and complementing massive orchestral synthesized walls of sound with buzzing guitar shards that sparkle in the rain. The dreamy Floydian feel of “To the End of the Hex” sets the tone for a wild ride, and one of the crowning achievement on this set list, as the full throttle guitars step to the front of the stage and provide a fiery lead guitar solo from Markus Jamsen. The mood is anthemic, yet powerfully athletic, a forlorn vocal section tweaking the mood into a form of ultimate submission and hopeful conclusion. The steamroller onslaught is beckoned back to the fore on “Defence Solution”, a tightly packed slap in the face, with guitar rage galore, binary drums and a catchy refrain amid all the chaos of sound and fury, a bruising modern prog rock tune.
The dust has settled and the contemplative beauty of “Tomorrow Started Yesterday” takes over, eventually shifting back and forth between bombastic moments and sonic acquiescence. The chorus is grandiloquent, overwhelming, and completely convincing, a definite clever highlight that requires playlist time., the slow burn finish (one ‘n’, not two!) is magical.
The RPWL-ish “The Waiting Room” is another slow burn anthem that keeps all the emotions in a tightly effective context, an excellent song that is somewhat out of the box from the rest. A perfect set up for the epic highlight track finale, the three- part “Factory Shadow” that surely will be the final determinator of its inherent quality and interest. Let me eliminate any suspense by stating that it is a fantastic suite that also serves as a perfect indicator of this band’s talent. Everything presented here is elevated from being really very good to outright excellent, not surprising as the nearly 11 minutes give the various arrangements all the space, width and breath needed to elicit applause from any listener, irrespective of genre preference, as it straddles a few prog subcategories with overt facility and inordinate amount of passion. The impressive three sections transition effortlessly, Tomi really shining on guitars, keyboards, bass and delivering a superlative vocal performance, asking “why the world keeps turning?” Good question, not too sure about finding the answer.
4.5 Puzzled wandering tenses