"The City Sleeps"

By The Sun Jester

Touchstone's third studio album, "The City Sleeps", released by SPVSteamhammer opens with "Corridors". It is clear from the first line that vocalist Kim Seviour is a talented singer with a powerful voice, but she fails to invest much into the lyrics beyond technical skill. Coupled with her appealing voice, the song's racing energy and bright sound are very appealing. Guitarist Adam Hodgson shines with fluid, dynamic playing and Rob Cottingham's keyboards are excellent, but the flourishes during the verses are distracting. A sparkling wash of keyboards ushers in the second song, "When Shadows Fall", a strong progressive rock track showing the band's considerable songwriting skills. Seviour's vocals are impressive, but the curious "samey-ness" heard in "Corridors" is present. Cottingham's vocals are a welcome change of pace and nuanced in a way that Seviour doesn't approach. "These Walls" is an impressive song that kicks off with a nasty, crunching guitar riff. The soaring, but emotionless vocals neuter the galloping rhythms, shimmering keyboards, and sharp lyrical content. Vocal pyrotechnics are impressive, but unless you invest each word of the song with detail and feeling, you run the risk of cheating yourself and the listener. "Throw Them To The Sky" opens with a hypnotic guitar figure augmented by shifting keyboard colors. It isn't easy to fuse hard rock/metal guitar sensibilities to their progressive rock counterparts, but songs like this prove the band has mastered that tricky task.

"Sleeping Giants" employs the band's two vocalists to great effect and the song itself is a majestic slice of modern progressive rock magic. Despite the lyrical content firmly grounded in the fantasy genre, the lyrics are full of vivid imagery and rarely vague. A strong, frantic guitar riff promises that "Good Boy Psycho" will be dangerous fun, but a vocalist incapable of projecting danger or menace ends that promise. However, the music and songwriting are once again superb, but the picture the band is trying to paint lacks color. "Horizons" is another example of the band's compositional and musical chops, but should have ended a minute sooner. "Half Moon Meadow" is an exceptional acoustic number and Seviour's vocals mesh seamlessly with the music. Her singing weaves around the delicate playing in such a way that the band sounds like a single instrument speaking directly to the listener. The title song, "The City Sleeps", suffers from its heavy-handed theatricality and the musical ideas are not compelling enough to justify its 10+ minute length. I applaud the band's ambition, but they are trying too hard to create a definitive showpiece number and, as a result, everything sounds strained and overwrought. The final song, "Corridors Epiphany", is a brief instrumental coda that ties everything up in an interesting way. Touchstone isn't lacking ambition, but this is an inconsistent effort drug down by singing that doesn't match the band's glaring ambitions.