Retreat from Moscow originally hail from Cardiff, Wales, UK and gigged extensively from 1979- 1981. Fast forward 40 years and the band of core members, Andrew Raymond (keyboards and more), Greg Haver (drums and more), Tony Lewis (bass and more) and John Harris (vocals and more) reformed in 2019 to start recording old and new material for a new album, ‘The World As We Knew It‘.
The roots of their music is influenced by the progressive giants of the 70s but their sound nods more to the 80s new wave of progressive music with strong melody, big keyboards and choruses, and soaring vocals.
“It is somewhat ironic that after releasing our first single in 1980, Retreat From Moscow have waited forty years to produce an album only to have the proposed launch postponed by a worldwide pandemic.” says guitarist, John ‘Harpo’ Harris. “Yet from those early, heady days at school listening to bands like Genesis, Tull, King Crimson, Camel and Caravan, even though the journey has been a long one, it has been worth the wait.”
2022 has started with some very good album releases and Retreat From Moscow have joined that heady mix with what must be considered as one of the best recent debut albums. There are nods to the progressive greats and to the heights of Neo-Prog in the late 80’s and early 90’s but, throughout this impressive release, the band resolutely follow their own direction.
There’s power, poise, precision and subtlety throughout. ‘The World As We Knew It’ may be forty years in the making but it impresses at every turn. Opening track The One You Left Behind prowls along with a menacing atmosphere, the dynamic rhythm section and hard edged guitars driving the song along and John Harris’ dynamic vocal providing the focal point. Radiation is fleet of foot and a genuinely feel good hard rock romp with a proper feel of nostalgia, the guitar work from Harris is just sublime. The wick is turned down a bit on the delightful neo-prog infused Henrietta, invoking Fish era Marillion but with the band’s own signature sound front and centre. Andrew Raymond’s silky keyboards are all over this elegant song and just add to the good natured mood that this record engenders.
Raymond’s skill is central to the opening of the vibrantly upbeat I’m Alive that screams 70’s prog at you at full volume. I honestly feel that anyone who has great progressive rock in their blood will absolutely love this album, the songwriting and musicianship are just top notch! Constantinople brings an oasis of calm and sophistication to the album. The vocals are restrained and the music, especially the beautiful flute and passionate guitar, sophisticated. The longest track on the album, coming in at over eleven minutes, Home, tells you all you need to know about this accomplished band. Their songwriting is excellent and their skill even better, a sublime listening experience that envelops the listener and draws them in to their expertly crafted musical world. Not a note is wasted and every song is an utterly absorbing experience. That hard rock edge returns to Armed Combat, moving away from the more progressive arena to deliver a track that wouldn’t be out of place on any 80’s rock album. It may just be me but the bass, drums and keys just shout Level 42 and I just love it! anyone else?
A gently meandering piece of music, Moving Down is wistfully serene and a pure gem. One of the best songs on the album, the thoughtful vocals and reflective music are just wonderful and just check out that guitar solo, it’s just heavenly. Perception is another fast moving track with a definitive hard rock edge that this outstanding band do so very well. Guitar, drums, bass and keys all work in perfect harmony to give John’s vocal a perfect backdrop to work on. Have 70’s Genesis arrived in the building as the first notes of Mandragora echo in your speakers? You’d be excused for thinking so as this exceptional track ebbs and flows, yet another song where Retreat From Moscow give their own unique slant on what has gone before. All good things must unfortunately come to an end and the album comes to a close with the elegant composure of Don’t Look Back. A slow burning opening with more of that exquisite flute and impassioned vocals gives a restrained tone to the song, everything tranquil and peaceful. The tempo increases though and the song opens up into something impressively fluid and mercurial, Andrew Raymond’s keyboard solo adding another layer of class before the guitar joins in to add fervour and passion, it’s a glorious ending to the album.
Robin Armstrong’s Gravity Dream Label has accrued a pretty impressive roster in a short period of time and the outstanding Retreat From Moscow are another high calibre artist to join him. In ‘The World As We Knew It’ they have crafted an album that is creative, inventive and inspirational, it is a breathtaking debut that will grace many end of the year ‘best of’ lists and one that the band should be rightfully very proud of.
Released 21st January, 2022
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