Review – Stuckfish – Days of Innocence – by John Wenlock-Smith

This might be one of the best new albums that I have had to pleasure to hear this year. Yes, it really is that impressive! The album has eight tracks, all above the five-and-a-half-minute mark and two over eight minutes.

No wonder this is attracting the interest of many prog fans for, in Stuckfish, we find a worthy blend of old school prog and classic rock, married together with a great vocalist in Phil Stuckey, who brings to mind a classic style, an excellent bass player (Phil Morey) and a fiery but tasteful guitarist in Ade Fisher. Together with drummer Adam Sayers and keyboard player Gary Holland, they make for a very tight and energetic team.

This is their third album written during the global layoff of 2021, which, as Ade says, was a better use of time than watching Netflix and chomping chocolate hobnobs and the results here can bear witness to that observation.

The album opens in a very Rush like vein with Age Of Renewal and its use of shifting time signatures which allows for some moody synth backing. Vocalist Phil Stuckey really performs well here with a strong clear tone that works well. There is a good synth/guitar interplay here too making the mid-section strong, just before Ade lets rip with a solo that takes the piece forward. Along with the great bass work on show, this is a great opener that will be a sure-fire winner live, seldom has seven minutes passed so quickly! The epic Days of Innocence follows, which features the nimble basswood of Phil Morey anchoring the song down. The track is a heartfelt one, a look back at childhood and the hope of a better future. The song is reflective and a touch maudlin, however it is certainly extraordinarily strong in tone. There’s great vocals too as Phil sings with passion and optimism for a star he has yet to reach. A very impressive track with good orchestration in the closing moments with great brass, unusual but effective and definitely memorable.

Painted Smile picks up the Rush baton once again with a chugging guitar riff that said band would have loved to employ. The song is about clowns and how their painted face often hides or masks their inner pains. This has great keyboards on it that create an aura of the circus with a suitable organ sound strong in the mix. Sounding sinister at times but creating and painting the setting wonderfully, this album makes a strong impression for all the right reasons and will surely appear in many bests of /end of the year’s lists, It will certainly be among my choices for that accolade, the track ends with a piano sound that evokes a silent film and concludes another fabulous track. The urgent guitar riff of Ade Fisher sees a segue into Game Changer, a track that flies out of the gate with style and punchy panache. This song properly rocks but does not forget to have melodies or dynamics that make this optimistic song stand out both musically and lyrically. I am really enjoying this album with its use of light and shade that works very well, as does the graceful guitar playing that leads the song on towards a marvellous rhythmic mid section which really makes an impact. Stuckfish have worked hard on this album, not only in the elegant material but also in the performances that are all highly impressive by any standard.

Thief In The Night is a great song about loss and the memories of a loved one that has gone. The track is very moving and is presented beautifully, with dignity and feeling. Phil’s voice is fantastic and really suited to the feeling of the song and making it my favourite on the album, sympathetically managed and beautifully written, it conveys perfectly what happens when a loved one passes on, glorious and magnificent in equal measures. Yearn is next and opens with a reverb laden piano that sets the tone for the song. With a trumpet evoking a smokey jazz club, it’s certainly very sultry and brooding sounding and has an epic chorus that really impacts. This is a slow burn of a track that creeps up on you and takes over, it’s truly that memorable. It reminds me of a Wishbone Ash song for some reason, must be the vocal inflections that it has. Wonderfully delicate and gracefully imagined and conceived, this is another great song that’s very well performed by all. A really impressive piece of music!

Nevermore is different as Phil sings in a Rob Halford sounding voice to significant effect. It is really distinctive to hear him singing in this manner and the song packs a punch to be sure, one of the shorter pieces but still a good listen. Different Ways closes the album in grand style, being one of the more blatantly progressive songs and one that gives room for the bands musical dexterity to shine through. With a great guitar solo from Ade and good support from all the group, this is a great album ending track.

So, there you have it, eight great tracks in one fine album from a band that are really on the rise. Get it while you can as it is utterly fantastic and definitely a highlight of the year so far!

Released 16th April, 2022.

Order from bandcamp here:

Days of Innocence | Stuckfish (bandcamp.com)

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