Many will know Declan Burke for his stint alongside Jem Godfrey in Frost*, though he has played with others such as neo-proggers Darwin’s Radio, Audio Plastik (a collaboration with guitarist and bassist Simon Andersson from Darkwater and also ex-Pain of Salvation along with keyboard player Richard West from Threshold), and since 2017 Dilemma, the Anglo-Dutch melodic proggers. Life In Two Dimensions is his fourth solo album, and it is immersed in the current state of the world with the 2020 lockdown as its perhaps inevitable background. It considers the themes of loss, hope, excitement, and tries to give such topics context in the modern world of endless advertising and materialism.
Potentially very heavy stuff indeed, but Declan never allows his songs to become bitter, maudlin, worthy or demoralizing. His style, which is highly melodic, multi-textured and slightly swaggering, edges away from this. It is really a mixture of progressive rock, AOR, and no little heavy rock. It is a blend that allows Declan to be emphatic with his crunching guitar sound, have a gutsy edge with the heavy rock element, and to be artful and more flamboyant in the proggy moments. The song-writing is very good, with a healthy emphasis on catchiness and colour.
Sensibly, Declan has sought out the help of some high quality musicians to join him on the album, and so the CD features contributions from acclaimed musicians from the progressive rock world. Pendragon’s Scott Higham is both energetic and circumspect on drums (Pendragon), it would be easy to flail away at times, missing the chance to be more decorous. Bass player Reiner Siemens creates busy though unflustered rhythms in the key anchoring role, whilst Kristoffer Gildenlöw from Pain Of Salvation plays with cultured bass on Life In To Dimensions and Energy, as does Guilherme Aguilar with his bass playing on Trapdoor. Guilherme also adds some tasteful cello on This Time, Robin Z from Dilemma contributes some apposite piano on Paper Fortress, while Cosmograf’s Robin Armstrong supplies backing vocals, keyboards and some more bass work (on Fly With Broken Wings) whilst also being responsible for the excellent mixing and mastering of the release.
The music is potent and very definitely guitar driven. Declan plays with great elan and liveliness, riffing away, picking chords to fit the atmosphere or emotion. He doesn’t create extended solos, seeing fit not to allow his guitar work – however up front it is – to detract from the song itself. He doesn’t have a distinctive or especially powerful voice, but it does suit the music. Some of the vocals are multi-layered giving the songs quite a lush feel. A lot of the tunes are similarly paced and there’s a drift to riff-verse-chorus in various combinations. Where the songs move away from this pattern, they tend to become more interesting. This Time is a more reflective piece, while the acoustic passages on the concluding track, Trapdoor, add more textures and feel. This remains a fresh and approachable listen though, with intelligent lyrics backed with powerful, cutting music. It is at the catchier and poppy end of prog rock, but enjoyable and rewarding to listen to.
1. Life in Two Dimensions
3. Sister X
4. This Time
6. Love Steel
8. Fly With Broken Wings
9. Paper Fortress
10. Trap Door
Dec Burke – Guitars, Vocals
Scott Higham -Drums
Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Bass
Robin Z. (Dilemma) – Piano
Guilherme Aguilar – Bass, Cello
Reiner Siemens – Bass
Robin Armstrong – Keys, Bass, Backing Vocals, Mixing, Mastering
Release date: 24th September, 2021
Label: Gravity Dream Music
Formats: CD, Digital