About The Band
Arc is the second album from Scottish progressive rock/metal outfit Turbyne. Their first came out back in 2015 but since then they have been writing as well as gigging including playing Bloodstock Metal Festival where this reviewer first came across them.
Since the last album Origins And Endings, they have added a full-time keys player in Jamie Hoyle who is simply all over this album. Between solos, he adds so much texture and character to the songs whether it be on piano or synths.
They also utilize two vocalists, Gary Gillespie and Keith Fleming, one doing clean and the other harsh vocals. The other members are Kyle Mitchell on drums, Ryan Todd on bass and guitarist (as well as the main songwriter) Calum Walker.
The album has been recorded under Covid restrictions so the band recorded their parts individually, not that you would notice. Arc contains 8 tracks, comprising an opening musical piece and 7 songs varying between 5 and 10 minutes. The music is an interesting mix with them floating between out and out metal through prog and even (shock horror) 1980s classic rock/AOR! Turbyne are not scared to change the style to match the mood or lyrics.
The Songs Reviewed
I will attempt to highlight moments in the songs that particularly grabbed my attention and that I loved. Opening musical number “Luna” starts all synth effects and gentle acoustic guitar. When it changes to electric they float between Dream Theater intensity and virtuosity and melodic Marillion in one passage (primarily due to the keys). There is even saxophone on the track. It works very nicely adding a sweet vibe to the track. Interestingly there are 2 songs that have sax on them played by two different players; on “Luna” it is performed by Ewan McCall.
Most of the songs seem to flow into each other (I have it as a download so it is not always clear) and “Enter The Labyrinth” comes directly from the synth into a heavy riff. The galloping effect is very similar to Iron Maiden at points, with quite a number of changes going on through it. The verses are quite heavy whilst there is real pop sensibility in the chorus and the fills are nicely prog metal.
“Cursebreaker” has an Oriental vibe at the start reminding me a little of “Scenes” by Marty Friedman ex of Megadeth. There are hints of Linkin Park and Yes at various points vying with some very brutal metal elsewhere. I did particularly dig the lead into the second chorus with the descending guitar or bass line along with the way they have piano underpinning the main riff at one point. There is a lot of thought gone into each track, little touches sprinkled in making the whole thing more textured and interesting.
“Inferno” heads into that AOR territory (think Asia, or perhaps Journey) and could actually give The Night Flight Orchestra in modern times a run for their money. I appreciate that consideration is given to the guitar solo which blends in with the character of the song. It is also well-positioned, a lighter moment before the album turns heavier and more challenging and prog metal in “I. Mythos II. Dark Aeons“.
This is the longest track on the album which as you can probably guess is in two discernible parts. The opening lulls you into a false sense of security with sound effects and some lovely percussion before the vocals come in. The mix of prog, melodic and extreme metal in the piece is combined with great purpose and obvious care. The way at one point the main melody is played on what sounds like a computer game caught me off guard.
Part 2 is instrumental and a full band workout with the keys floating from ear to ear in the headphones and even going into ragtime music for a short time. There are plenty of headbanging moments (riffs!) whilst never ever being too far away from a nice melodic line. This is where the second sax player, Justin Kent gets to do his thing. An absolute beast of a track. I personally loved its construction.
“Light Pillars” flows through a few changes, from an acoustic opening with tasteful percussion into lovely vocal and piano before going slightly funky! It doesn’t finish there as it heads into Genesis/Marillion territory. There is even a bit of a Celtic vibe in the second guitar solo.
“Teraflare” is perhaps the most straightforward song (it is the shortest track featuring lyrics). Hard rocking but with plenty of melody running through it. Talking about “Celtic”, closing number “Atlas Road” has a bit of Big Country in the guitar sound at one point. It is a hopeful song, very uplifting both in lyrics and music, a feeling of coming into the light from the dark. There is one moment that made me smile especially. Late in the song the piano plays something similar to the riff in “Caroline” by Status Quo, not for long but it is very alike! Sure it is an accident rather than planned. Sonically there is also a bit of that Devin Townsend sound in here as well. Yes, they do mix and match but the configuration and the way they fit them together is impressive.
It might have taken 5 years but it is worth the wait. Turbyne step up from their impressive debut, not only both in the playing and writing but also in the production. It sounds terrific and is very easy on the ear.
If you pre-order before Friday 5 March on the Turbyne Bandcamp page (link below) you can also get a download of the 7 songs with lyrics as musical numbers/instrumentals. I can say that is also a damn fine listen. The album has been on heavy rotation in my home and I am still finding little things I hadn’t noticed previously and enjoying it immensely. Finally, as the dictionary definition says about the word, this Arc is a progression of events, of narrative cohesion that reaches a climax or conclusion. It is a damn fine one at that.
Self-released Friday 5 March