Touchstone - 'Oceans Of Time'

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Touchstone - 'Oceans Of Time'

Touchstone enters the big league? Yes indeed.

In my live reviews of Touchstone I have invariably remarked about the wonderfully gritty power of Adam Hodgson's guitar work which wasn't always quite as evident from the band's studio output. However, with this album that has been corrected as the guitars are to the fore; that combined with John Mitchell's pristine and dynamic production has seen the band make a further step up in class. The rhythm section of Andre Moorghen (bass) and Henry Rogers (drums) are also on fire giving Touchstone a heavier feel. Indeed, some of Rogers' drumming rivals the great Mike Portnoy.

At times this heavier approach reminds me of my old mates Balance of Power with occasional flashes of Evanescence and Within Temptation carrying over into their sound, along with motifs that wouldn't be out of place with Black Sabbath or Dream Theater. Vocalist Kim Seviour grows with each release and that seems to be borne out by the fact that she dominates here with keyboardist, Rob Cottingham's contribution being far more limited than hitherto; however, his accentuations are crucial to the truly splendid arrangements.

I was surprised to see that the track 'Solace' from the previous album making reappearance here because it was without a doubt my least favourite song on 'Wintercoast' due to its saccharine nature. However, if a reflection of the band's power is wanted this is it. The opening verse and chorus are the same but then this version of the song takes off in a wonderful up tempo manner and features spectacular keyboard and guitar solos. The opening track 'Flux' is an amazing start; the riff hits you between the eyes and the song gallops along nicely until a well executed change takes the pace right down allowing it to build to an incredible crescendo. 'Contact' is a lovely fluid song with a fine vocal arrangement. Usually a wordless chorus is a cop-out but here it is remarkably effective. 'Tabula Rasa' maintains the song quality and features more heartfelt singing from Seviour. 'Fragments' hints at the aforementioned female fronted bands while 'Spirit of the Age' features a wonderful refrain. It's a beautifully constructed song which lulls you initially with its delicate refrain and delightful harmonies and answering vocals, before shifting up several gears on the back of those terrific crunchy guitars.

'Shadows End' is the one track where Cottingham shares lead vocals and this is works incredibly well, with him taking the middle section, but it's the closing part that takes the plaudits as it builds exquisitely while Seviour's vocals are brilliantly arranged and executed. 'Through the Night' rattles along and has Hodgson delivering another short but dynamic solo.

The title track closes the album in great fashion, initially very powerful it moves through various phases, some quite chilled - juxtaposing so well with the innate heaviness. The closing instrumental section where Hodgson 'goes for it' is worth the entry fee alone.

Touchstone enters the big league? Yes indeed.

Gary Marshall


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