Review – CATALYST*R – CATALYST*R

CATALYST*R formed during the first UK lockdown of 2020 when ex-ESP lyricist and vocalist Damien Child approached PGR for help in finding a possible collaborator. Ex-This Winter Machine composer and founding member Gary Jevon was contacted and the pair hit it off immediately. A long-distance writing partnership between London and Yorkshire began and they quickly amassed enough ideas to complete a full album. Greg Pringle (ESP, Simon Townshend and Quadrophenia) soon joined on drums/percussion.

The album showcases the various musical influences of each member and includes – but not necessarily limited to – prog, glam, electronica, northern soul, metal, big band, jazz and musical theatre!

For obvious reasons, CATALYST*R’s debut album was recorded remotely and – as yet – the band still have not physically met. Work has already begun on a follow-up album, which will – hopefully – involve spending some time in the same room as each other.

So that’s the PR stuff out of the way, sounds very interesting doesn’t it? Now let’s delve in and see what an independent music lover thinks…

Turning this review on its head, let me say straightaway that this album is really rather good indeed, a well judged melting pot of musical styles and influences perfectly blended to give us one of the most enjoyable album releases of the year so far.

From the powerful, catchy driving rock of opener Welcome to the Show, with its incendiary guitar work and dynamic percussion through to the final track Goldst*R, a totally immersive and enthralling musical experience with a narrative ghost story that invokes the spirits of M.R James and Lovecraft, CATALYST*R have created an aspiring, high-reaching album full of melody and craft, one that asks the listener questions but is accessible at the same time.

There’s the sparse loneliness and isolation of Apollo One Three with its heartfelt vocals and melancholy guitar, the Marillion-like bittersweet wistfulness of Someone Else’s Dream, where Damien’s vocals really come to the fore, it really is a beautiful song, and the hard-edged rhythms of You Against The World, that takes me back to another age with its pared back feel. The lightness of touch of the production on this album is an utter delight to hear, it feels raw and real and you feel every emotion.

The sorrowful In The Deep End is a powerfully emotive track that captures images of loss and grief through its delicately delivered plaintive vocals with the perfectly judged pensive musical accompaniment, the gracefully somber guitar solo is wonderfully judged. The stand out track among a collection of elegantly created songs is the dreamy and contemplative Immortal, a thoughtful and nostalgic delight that reminds me of 80’s AOR at its very, very best, just beautiful!

So, there you have it, another album created during lockdown, a period of explosive creativity that we haven’t seen for many a year. There have been some superb albums released this year already and, in ‘CATALYST*R’, we have another one to add to that burgeoning list. When everything that is happening around you is making your life jaded, just press play on this bewitching collection of songs, light the spark and let the music start to take your cares away…

Released 28th June, 2021.

Order the album from bandcamp here:

Catalyst*R | Catalyst*R | Progressive Gears (bandcamp.com)

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