Escape is the follow up to 2019’s Demon. This time round the album features Mike Cairns from the Tom Slatter Band on percussion, Keith Buckman (Tom Slatter Band and The Far Meadow) on bass. There are other guest appearances: Gareth Cole (Fractal Mirror, Mike Kershaw, Whitewater) guitar solo in the track ‘Rats’, Graham Keane, guitarist with Vicious Head Society makes an appearance on the opener ‘Time Stands Still’, and Ben Bell (Gandalf’s Fist) keyboard on ‘Going Nowhere’.
“As the title suggests, this album is all about escapism which for me means being a scifi/fantasy fan. Reading books, playing computer games, and generally being an indoors kid. And of course listening to lots of loud rock music at the same time. So I’ve turned up the guitars and written a load of songs about spaceships and soldiers and stuff.” So says the chap himself.
‘Time Stands Still’ is a 12 minute assault, excellent riffing in an opening section before a lighter cleverly descending acoustic piece acts as precursor to a raucous yet excellent darker metallic riff-filled instrumental guitar section. Extremely well crafted work. A jarring close into the next part is quickly forgotten as Slatter embarks onto a winding closing journey, some clever chord changes, verse and chorus shapes, and another excellent guitar instrumental to close. It’s apparently inspired by Gateway, a novel by Frederick Pohl. Check it out.
Last time round my review talked of a “Marmite voice”. Maybe I’ve mellowed, but this time round his voice mostly suits the music, albeit still a bit John Dexter Jones (Jump) in verbose storytelling mode. I’m reminded of a guitar-led version of Galahad and Grey Lady Down, maybe because of his vocals, but possibly also the clever song writing and song structures, certainly in the opener.
‘Too Many Secrets’ is an excellent five minute piece of work, a tight dark descending guitar riff, embellished in the second part of the verse before the more harmonious and melodious chorus. A word of praise for the tight playing throughout, retro keys adding a drama, and excellent instrumental break with guitar playing that deserves repeat listen.
‘Let’s All Pretend’ has another retro feel to start, cramming a variety of styles into its jazzy punky opening as Slatter lays his quintessentially english vocals bare at the start. Energetic and frantic, this is a quirky number, made more appealing with a clever bass then guitar section two-thirds through, before the punkish chord shapes and retro keys solo kick in.
‘Rats’ does require you to meet Slatter’s vocals straight on, his ‘sing in a speaking voice’ vocals suiting his storytelling style (I’ve said it before). It’s worth noting at this point that Slatter’s guitar sounds, shapes, riffs, and intricate stylings deserve notice, providing clever intervals as they do between the pop-punky thrashings.
‘Collateral’ has a clever time-signature and darker structure to start, its bass riff underpinning a jaunty guitar. It’s worth praising the other players at this point, Cairns’ tight drums leading the thrashings that occur but also providing subtlety when required. And Buckman’s bass providing that stability but also innovative flexibility when needed. This track needed it’s melodic break mid-song, vocal harmonies and thoughtful chord choices lifting it out of routine before moving into a harder guitar led instrumental section.
And so to the epic closer ‘Going Nowhere’. Nineteen minutes. Frantic at times. Pop-punky (I know I’m repeating myself) clever chords. Excellent lead guitar work. Elevating keyboards. Some delicious changes in tempo and sound. As fragmented as those sentences at times, but at the same time naturally progressing with clever songwriting and song structures. Slatter can pick out multi-purpose riffs, and develop them in half a dozen different ways. He can set up some clever musical breaks and find rabbit-hole diversions to take the band players down. Don’t believe me? Take a listen from six minutes in. You’re taken on a delightfully escapist (pun intended) journey that is both modern, retro and eccentric simultaneously. And what a delightful and cleverly fulfilling ascent out of it all from around ten minutes in. We get a brief carousel breather which acts as a prelude to a dream-like sequence that grows in maturity and complexity punctuated by great bass and guitar. Some epics flow naturally. But Slatter isn’t scared of being a bit Oldfield and simply putting sections one against another, such as here where the section stops and another starts, an escalating intensity taking the listener back to earlier themes. And ending it abruptly, almost as if the ideas, energy or time had run out. Only they won’t have – Mr Slatter is a very talented chap. In fact I don’t think anyone could have made this track but Tom.
And I don’t think anyone else could have made this album but Tom. But that’s a compliment, not a backhander.
Michael Cairns – drums
Keith Buckman – bass guitar
Tom Slatter – vocal, guitars and keyboards
Graham Keane – lead guitar on Time Stands Still
Gareth Cole – lead guitar on Rats
Ben Bell – all keyboards on Going Nowhere
Written and produced by Tom Slatter
Mastered by David Elliott
- Time Stands Still
- Too Many Secrets
- Let’s All Pretend
- Going Nowhere