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Diagonal: The Second Mechanism

UK Progressive Rock group Diagonal has signed with Rise Above Records, and finds their second album, The Second Mechanism, due for a late 2012 release. I had never heard of this group before, only knowing of their existence after checking my inbox not too long ago to find this promo sitting there. So, while my fiancee was in the shower, I stole her laptop briefly to check out as much as I could of this upcoming release.

“Voyage / Paralysis” kicks things off with an astral synth effect that reminded me of early Science Fiction television programming from the likes of Dr. Who, or even of films similar to Logan’s Run. It doesn’t last too long before heading into some surprisingly clean and eclectic sounding guitars that introduce the Progressive Rock template of the band. The entire performance is pretty relaxing for much of the song, sometimes kind of straying from that astral atmosphere, but still ends up being a well composed offering. Of everything the song has to offer though, it’s the keyboard solo with an extra kick of energy that really grabbed my attention. It brought things right back to how it all started, and just let me escape for a very brief time before the guitars picked up.

After a mixture of slower to faster material, I was then met with “These Yellow Sands.” The slow introduction brought in what sounded like some smooth Jazz to the equation. The drums were simple and catchy, while the guitars and keyboards offered up a rather moving piece one might expect in a Noir of some kind. I felt as though I was moving through a blackened alley way the more I ventured into the song, and the only thing missing was an actual accordion instead of what sounds like a saxophone, or the keyboards trying to imitate one. Either way, the speed increases a bit around the three minute mark, going from somber and depressing to somewhat upbeat and jovial. It’s a shift I honestly wasn’t ready to make, as the first three sounded absolutely breathtaking the way it was. I’m not really liking the direction it took. While it isn’t bad, I just started to get bored due to the lack of emotion. Even the solos that hit towards the final two minutes aren’t grabbing my attention either, which was causing me to just watch the timer click down, and keep typing just to keep myself somewhat focused.

“Mitochondria” kicked things off similarly to “These Yellow Sands.” In fact, I had to go look and make sure this wasn’t just another part of that track, perhaps after a brief gap of silence. But, the saxophone sound was replaced with an accordion thankfully (or at least what I assume to be one), though it did seem to go back to the saxophone a little later. Again, the emotion that was at the start gave way to a somewhat more upbeat sound, and again some of my interest was lost, though not entirely. The additional astral effects from the keyboard that whipped by like winds from time to time really added a little more substance to the music. Around six minutes in, the pace changes entirely for a sudden jolt of energy that doesn’t last that long. It’s about seven minutes and forty-two seconds in, and the song took on more of a traditional Progressive Rock approach, a lot richer and not trying to convey an atmosphere that doesn’t have the proper emotion behind it, and I immediately started paying attention once more. It’s just too bad this lasted so short a time, and what power it had at first did eventually die down towards the end.

“Hulks” introduced the first song with singing in it, and it honestly sounded really good. The soothing voice against slower, soothing music complimented well by the saxophone and some nice chords behind them allowed for richer, stronger material in the bridges and chorus that didn’t feel forced into establishing a specific atmosphere like the previous three songs did. Of course, things did change up not too long after the vocals started. Ushering back in the early instrumental style with plenty of shifts, Diagonal do their best to create an astral world with an emotional Noir style like previous tracks offered. While some areas did come through great, having a good deal of power that kept me enthused, it was the simpler areas that just let me unimpressed. Around seven minutes in, some Jazz stuck out again, the tone got a little maniacal, and my want for some kind of saxophone solo was briefly answered by a few seconds of a passionate wail on the instrument that left me wanting more. The vocals eventually kicked back in, as did the pace, and I found myself finally bobbing my head along to an infectious beat that only continued to pick up in madness.

I had to cut it at “Capsizing” unfortunately, though I’ll admit I wasn’t too interested in hearing the rest of the album. The Second Mechanism wasn’t that bad an album, but it kept losing me periodically. There was plenty of emotional material here and there, but outside those moments were somewhat bland and unappealing to me. I can see where the potential lies in Diagonal, but it’s obvious from this once through on most of The Second Mechanism is an album from a band that does still have a little more growth to do…

Diagonal (band)

Digital review material for this article provided by Metal Blade Records via Earsplit PR.