Music trends can sometimes be bothersome; they often put a crutch on creativity. You may open up your internet browser and find out that an album is being greatly overrated for its time. Hype is dangerous and thus we must be careful when we see it lurking in the shadows. It’s constantly trying to convince us that the latest product is eternal, that each track will hold a constant replay value despite the passage of time. There’s probably been a time when you picked up an album thinking that it was going to be the greatest piece of composed sound your ears could ever have the grace of experiencing. Only to discover on purchasing that hype had destroyed your musical integrity. The album does not even sound half as good as it is described by friends and foe alike. So why would an independent group such as Room 1985 be worthy of the golden status? And how does their self-titled concept album “Room 1985”, buck this trend?
Sonically, lyrically and vocally, this album more than lives up to its hype. Guitar leads echo for miles, reaching into cavernous expanses of reverb. The profound introspection that drives the lyrics paints the picture of a person investigating life itself, and the electronics pushes the progressive rock roots into epic futuristic soundscapes. The genius behind the album belongs to the Manchester based duo of Chris Crysand (vocals, guitar, bass guitar, synth guitar, bass, synths and keys) and John Hulse (drums, percussion, drum machine and programming).
Both experienced musicians with a long and varied history in the rock, progressive metal and electronic music genres; Chris has toured all over Europe with his previous project Crysand who boasts collaborations with prestigious artists ranging from Van der Graaf Generator, Brandi Winny of Ozric Tentacles and Rofoldo Maltese through to DJ Antoine Becks and Lel Brothas and Nero.
“Room 1985” is as much about feeling as it is about the plot, which is a smart move on the duo’s part – adding substance to style – which is a prerogative of any serious progressive rock album, be that electronic or otherwise. Instrumentally, “Room 1985” is tasteful in enhancing the themes of the album without giving way to any proggy excess. The drumming is dazzlingly captivating without any showboating.
The intricate rhythmic designs are impressive yet subtle. The guitars are powerful with scorching solos in many instances, without ever overstaying their welcome. The synths are sprawling and expansive, often supported by bone-crushing basslines. There is also a full-hand of exciting guest vocal appearances that thoroughly enhances the variety and overall listening experience of this album. On the whole, “Room 1985” reveal the project’s skill in balancing individually accessible tracks with a larger emotive concept.
“Room 1985 is a concept album that discusses the philosophical and physical relationships between religion, modern society, love and an ultimately unfulfilled life,” explained Chris Crysand, on describing the album’s inspiration and concept. “The album is a cautionary tale in two parts; the first half describes living a life that goes unfulfilled both with love and faith while the second half of the album consists of individual songs about different ideas and concepts that are detrimental to society and can lead to madness; but also to simultaneous happiness and sadness.”
It’s hard to define an album as flawless. I think that there are some points on every incredible album where you feel the artist could have improved in a respective area. Those points are hard to find here, which goes to explain the amount of thought and effort put into this album’s creation.One could strip this album down to its individual 10 individual tracks, but that would be absolutely reductive for an epic concept album, to my mind.
What strikes me more, are the so many interesting harmonic and melodic touches throughout each piece, and the high level of arrangement that’s on display throughout the album. Also the vocal work, is unquestionably good, and quite easy on the ears. Many times in progressive rock there’s a vocalist that seems to ruin the otherwise excellent music. Thankfully, this isn’t the case here. Like most progressive music, there are sudden time signature changes, odd keys, and irregular rhythms, but all the time the music remains accessible to even the untrained ear. Add to that, elements like “passionate, emotional, moving, and tense at times, and Room 1985’s formula result in being more than rewarding.
Offhand, if I was forced to choose a couple of songs as an introduction to the band’s aptitude and the album’s overall execution, on pure gut instinct, I would go with the album opener “This is the Way”, then “Future Rain”, and definitely “He Paints a Picture”. Clearly Room 1985 is an electronic rock band to watch out for, and not because it fills the void left by the hiatus or exit of their peers or other contemporary progressive rock orientated bands. It’s simply that Chris Crysand and John Hulse are boldly forging their own musical path, and though they still have a lot on the road ahead of them, the “Room 1985” album is a fundamental and appealing memento of where they are right now.