Although the band was founded back in the 1990s it is fair to say that Drifting Sun have had an ephemeral existence. The group trundled along with various members then took an extended hiatus for around fifteen years or so until original member keyboardist Pat Sanders decided to reanimate the band with new musicians. This arrangement has resulted in some well-received releases, although again with transient line-ups. Forsaken Innocence again finds a number of new faces in the band. Pat Sanders seemingly has a relaxed outlook on this, working with those musicians he believes to be of interest and capable of achieving his musical vision. Drifting Sun is a studio band in any case, so the approach is a sound one.
The current line-up of the band finds Pat working with some highly talented musicians. Mathieu Spaeter, once of the Franck Carducci Band, again returns to play some stunning guitar as he has done on other recent releases by Drifting Sun. Greek singer Jargon from Verbal Delirium emphatically takes up the vocal mantle, along with occasional keyboards, while former Karnataka, and current ZIO drummer Jimmy Pallagrosi contributes astute and fitting drumming. The phenomenal bassist John Jowitt, who proggers will know from his time with IQ, Jadis, Arena, Frost* and others but now plays in Rain, brings his exceptional skills along too. There are tellingly trenchant guest appearances from Nine Skies’ Eric Bouillette, Ben Bell of Gandalf’s Fist and Fractal Mirror’s Gareth Cole.
The resulting music is diverse, colourful, and epic. The groups inspirations are writ large in some of the sections and sounds deployed. There are hints of Dream Theatre, Marillion, Genesis, Jethro Tull, amongst others and once in a while Barclay James Harvest come to mind. Sometimes the guitars become a little Hackettesque, some of the retro keyboard sounds, particularly the solos, are very Wakemanesque. The skill and the art at play here though means that Pat has created something singular from this. The music has grand sweeping gestures with drive and energy. Although it is quite epic sounding, the music never strays far from being melodic. The music is complex, as are the lyrics. The album title Forsaken Innocence is a reference to the struggles we face when we try to re-find the innocence that has been buried within us from our childhood, and how we have to extract memories and emotions that we’d rather not remember, in a quest for finding such perceived ‘goodness’ back within ourselves.
The opening track, King Of The Country, is a busy track full of movement that lays down the marker for the album right away. It is attention grabbing. At times the music on display on the album is dark, reflecting the depth of the lyrical content, at others it is lightened by sections based around the piano or acoustic guitars. It is well crafted and beautifully arranged. The album flows through a series of moods and atmospheres, building to the musical crux of the release, the epic Forsaken Innocence. The musical gestures are grand and sweeping, bringing the meaning of the album and its musical execution to an emphatic climax before the concluding Time To Go calms proceedings down and allows space for a little reflection. It is an impressive and imposing album, rich and intricate that rewards being lived with.
Inevitably, not all musical attempts come off. The second track, Insidious, is pleasant enough. It is catchy and almost radio-worthy, but it becomes entangled in itself and its persistence becomes dominant. Not a bad track though, just over long. To a lesser extent the title track bears similar results. You may wonder why the track is split into two separate ones when it could have been a massive grandiloquent one. There are decided differences between the two though. For all the musicianship, the lyrics are highly centred and focused in part one whereas the second part is completely instrumental. Some of the musical ideas later in this piece seem to build into a sort of loop that doesn’t really reach a conclusion, the musical patterns becoming a tad repetitive. This is never overbearing though, and it is a fine conclusion to the piece.
This album is as zesty a piece of neo-prog as you are likely to find. It is well crafted, excellently written and consummately played. Pat may be the focus of the release, but he always allows his fellow musicians the space to express themselves. The subject of memory is a fascinating one in any case, and part of it is excellently and intricately explored here. The lyrics and the music are finely balanced, and in spite of the heaviness of the meanings never becomes oppressive. It is well produced, at times having something of Alan Parsons about it. An excellent listen, and something of an important album for the band. It is a monumental statement for them.
1. King of the Country (11:36)
2. Insidious (8:08)
3. Dementium (9:10)
4. New Dawn (6:48)
5. Forsaken Innocence (Part 1) (10:51)
6. Forsaken Innocence (Part 2) (14:52)
7. Time to Go (2:28)
8. Hand on Heart (bonus track only on Digital & Vinyl editions) (4:48)
Pat Sanders – keyboards
Mathieu Spaeter – guitars
John ‘Jargon’ Kosmidis – vocals, keyboards (6)
John Jowitt – bass
Jimmy Pallagrosi – drums
Eric Bouillette – violin (1,5), guitars (7)
Ben Bell – Hammond solo (3)
Gareth Cole – guitars (4)
Release date: 27th October, 2021 -Digital)
15th November, 2021 – CD, Vinyl
Formats: double gatefold vinyl / Digipak CD with 12-page booklet