Flying Colors

Second Nature

Written by: BW on 29/08/2014 19:47:40

Flying Colors are, for those that don’t know already, a progressive supergroup made up of veterans of the industry from some well known areas of the genre. From Dream Theater to Spock’s Beard and Dixie Dregs to Deep Purple we have a vast amount of talent and experience on show from Mike Portnoy, Neal and Steve Morse, Dave LaRue and Casey McPherson. With such a well received self titled first album we sit now on what I would call the album to really get your head around, as second albums usually get a little more risky once the reputation has been established...... or do they?

When you start listening to “Second Nature” you can realise that there are some major prog influences sitting within. You could seriously be listening to any Dream Theater album as “Open Up Your Eyes” kicks in, with that piano intro and a steady drum beat accompanying the usual mix of keyboard pushes and in sync guitar melodies. Not to say it is bad in the slightest, but you do get that overwhelming feeling of being in safe hands. You can also dispense with the thoughts of songs just being of the shorter traditional length, as it clocks in at a decent 12 and a bit minutes. The intro really allows these 5 maestros to show off their skills before everyone starts to reign it in a bit from about a third of the way in. From that point right up to the end of the track we get a more standardised tune for a little bit, but then the big chunks of prog get thrown in to keep you guessing. It’s pretty much as solid a start as you could ask and in Portnoy’s case in particular, it is nice to see people back into their familiar music styles again.

“Mask Machine” feels a little different though, with Casey McPherson (of Alpha Rev and Endochine) at times almost sounding like Matthew Bellamy through a muffler. The whole song does have a sort of Muse feel to it, but there are the odd double kicks and more traditional prog chord progressions. I do feel like this is a weaker song though, but I feel it is maybe for the wrong reasons. I do really like Muse, but this track feels like it is trying too hard to copy them and the mixture of that and trying to keep its own identity almost makes this sound a little confused. It even goes as far as the higher octave harmonies that the British band is well known for. It just feels like it could have been a bit more individual than what we end up with.

“Bombs Away” feels a bit better though. The chord choices are nice and more like what we would expect. It has a moody feel to it and there is almost a hint of dirty about it as well. I do have to admit it is more like a traditional song, but then not all songs on a progressive album need to be an epic. You would class these as a break in some circles, but as a song goes, this is pretty slick and standard rock fare with the wispy keyboards only kicking in for a short spell near the end to mix it up.

There always needs to be a slow ballad styled track on albums like this and “Second Nature” does not disappoint. ”The Fury of My Love” is exactly what you’d expect from a slower song from the band. Some violins peek out from time to time during the initial exchanges, which then leads into traditional fare. Listening to the chorus almost sounds like Myles Kennedy and the boys of Alter Bridge doing a slightly softer song than their repertoire is accustomed to. It is a very solid song and would sit well as a single release because it could fit in that area very nicely.

“A Place in Your World” seems to follow a generic rock song style, but it makes me think that perhaps they are playing it safe on this song. In the back of my mind I keep thinking that they’re gonna go off in some crazy direction and getting all time signature mental on me, but it all feels just a little too close to normality. It isn’t to say that the tune is bad, as it isn’t, in fact it is quite a pleasant song to listen to, but I keep thinking something is missing.

“Lost Without You” is another, solid song with some good harmonies and some intricate drum work ensuring things move along well enough. It is worth mentioning some of the nice harmony and chord work on this track as well as some strings adding a little depth in the chorus too.

The prog is fully unleashed once I get to “One Love Forever” and beyond. Mixtures of folk guitars, accordions, melodies, good drum work and some back and forth movements from gentle verse to active chorus is more what I would associate. It’s a very catchy track and moves along well, but my true favourites are right at the end of this album, in a saving the best to last kind of way.

“Peaceful Harbor” is beautiful, it really is. A nicely uplifting melody and some nice vocal work guide you along softly to an absolutely magnificent ending with a full choir lending themselves to the chorus chords in such a well crafted manner. The first time you hear it you just don’t think it is going to be there, but it just takes your breath away and if, like me, you can be a bit of a wuss, it might just even make you slightly emotional. I’m not kidding, by the way.

The final song on the album is a great way of showing just what can be done with the right chord progression mixed with the right degree of noise input. Strings and a simple beat accompany the singing and it works very well. Once we get about a quarter of the way in things begin to change up a little with an almost 70’s progressive feel, which is a smile raiser. The ingredients feel like they work so good together and then half way in we come back to the modern day with a decent guitar solo mixing it with some subtle keyboard work building towards a very soft and perfect climax, but I don’t want to spoil too much for you.

This album probably does come as second nature to these guys. They are much loved from their past and respected in their present and this album is a solid effort which reflects that. This may not be a true progressive rock album, but when it does show those moments it does it in a way that makes you smile from ear to ear. As an overall rock album though it does a very good job and I feel there’s definitely a few listens in there. It certainly doesn’t harm their reputation or the group’s image, and I hope that when a third album materialises that they really grab the bull by the horns and go for it!


Download: Open Up Your Eyes, Cosmic Symphony, Peaceful Harbor
For The Fans Of: Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard, Muse

Release date 29.09.2014
Music Theories Recordings

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