Album review: Lonely Robot – The Big Dream

Artist: Lonely Robot
Album: The Big Dream
Record Label: InsideOut Records
Release Date: April 28, 2017

To begin, I know keeping up with progressive rock is not easy. Should you spend your time digging up obscure classics, analyzing whatever album Steven Wilson just remixed, trying to keep up with the ever-growing army of new prog bands or just ignoring your responsibilities as a father and committing to all of the above. Regardless of your decision, The Big Dream by Lonely Robot should be amongst your prog priorities.
The album opens up with a slow and purposeful feeling theatrical piece. We hear the voice of philosopher Alan Watts, over a light piano melody, contemplating the idea of non-existence and the sampling we get of this nothingness as we sleep. The track builds to a rolling snare that leads into the first full waking moments of the main character. Although the album is not a  concept it does play thematically as a story would. The album proceeds and seamlessly weaves between heavy and dark but also melodic and spacious.  Going from a song like “Sigma” which somehow lands in that sweet spot of being heavy and also vocally feeling as if Steven Wilson and Seal collaborated on it to the simple and ethereal astompshere of “In Floral Green”.

 

Before addressing any more singular tracks, John Mitchell, the songwriter, vocalist and guitarist of Lonely Robot is criminally underrated in the prog community. The solos on the album are some of the most consistently tasteful solos I have heard in a long time, doing so without trimming the virtuosity. Mitchell continually makes perfect choices in terms of tonality, rhythm and melody. Mitchell also employs his Frost* bandmate Craig Blundell on drums who, in my opinion, is one of the most distinct and impressive drummers playing today. The album is full of rhythmic patterns and quick fills that grab the listener without taking away from the purpose of the song. Mitchell rounds the album out with Steve Vantsis on bass and Liam Holmes on keys, both of which don’t fall to the wayside at any point on the album.
Somehow the album closes out even stronger than it began. “The Divine Art of Being” shows a simple vulnerability that is the type of song that’ll have you tearing up while driving down an open highway, the song culminates with a beautifully clean guitar solo which leads right into the longest track on the album “The Big Dream”.  Now, take a moment and dry your eyes but keep the volume up because “The Big Dream” hits especially hard with a hugely heavy guitar riff that leads into an 8 minute instrumental track that puts all these young instrumental prog boys bands to shame.

The Big Dream may not be a concept album but it feels very much like a story being told. For those familiar with Mitchell this falls somewhere between the Kino and Frost*. For those newcomers The Big Dream is a great starting point to one of the prog scenes strongest songwriters.
Rating: 8/10

For Fans of: Frost*, Kino, Arena, Marillion, Steven Wilson

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