Review – Age of Distraction – A Game Of Whispers

Age of Distraction is a thrilling new collaboration which spans across the contemporary UK progressive rock circuit. In 2023, founder member and lead writer John Cook (ex-This Winter Machine, ex-This Other Eden) recruited rising-star Charlie Bramald (Ghost of the Machine, Shadows On Mercury) on vocals, gravity-defying bassist Mark Gatland (Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate, IT), and multi-instrumentalist plus producer-extraordinaire Dom Bennison (Last Motion Picture, ex-This Winter Machine) to occupy the drum stool and handle production duties.

Together, the band has created a debut album which explores the boundaries of melodic, accessible progressive rock and metal, evoking an atmosphere all of its own in the process.

This blend of contemporary progressive rock and melodic metal opens with the pensive instrumental The Uninvited which features the emotion laden piano and keys of Ruby Jones (The Exotic Ices Project) and a post apocalyptic sounding vocal overlay. It’s a powerful intro that ebbs and flows dynamically before segueing into Break My Bones that gives up a thunderous intro before Charlie’s eloquent vocal takes over. A prime example of the progressive metal/ contemporary rock sound that is all the rage now, it flows melodically but there is always a persistent edge to the song. Featuring a guitar solo from John Cook that is both emotive and stirring in equal amounts, it certainly stands out. Dom’s machine gun drums open the edgy Compromised, a track that seems to stride purposefully across your acoustic synapses like a musical invasion. I really like the feel of this song and Charlie’s stirring vocal adds real menace. More of a hard rock track that leans into the metal genre a touch, there’s real power and soul to this stylish piece of music and, once again, a rather impressive guitar solo adds the finishing touch. Protect Me begins with a slow burning, low down feel, suspenseful in tone and delivery. The vocal is delivered in a measured and earnest manner, adding to the heartfelt aura that this impressive song engenders. There is a primeval power at the core of the music as the echoing guitars leave their impression on you and just check out that ever so soulful solo! The Plea is a short, musical amuse bouche full of wistful guitars that bleed melancholy and leave a lump in your throat, it’s very clever songwriting and just adds to the story that the band are creating.

The dark, brooding wonder of Take Me Down once again features the elegant piano and keys of Ruby Jones and also the distinctive, dignified vocals of Philip Stuckey (Stuckfish) and is one of the best songs of this genre you are likely to hear this year. There’s an age old wonder to the feel of the song, a nostalgic desire evident in Richard’s voice, it is music that is epic in scope and delivered in a widescreen fashion and I’m really impressed with this track. Title track A Game Of Whispers goes hard and heavy again with a monolithic feel to the drums and guitar and Mark’s bass has an age old feel to its delivery. Charlie delivers another menacing vocal and we end up with a song that wouldn’t be out of place on a Judas Priest album. There’s a melodic power at the core of everything that this talented quartet deliver and vibrant, densely layered feel to the sound and it is no more evident than on this highly impressive piece of music. This amazing musical journey continues with the vivid and animated hard rock infused instrumental The Point Of No Return, staccato and imposing guitars combining with the immense drums to create a phenomenal wall of sound that consumes all that encounter it.

The oasis of calm that is Oceans slows the pulse and reduces the blood pleasure after the enjoyable sonic assault that preceded it. A plaintive, pensive feeling song that leaves your breath catching as you let its emotions wash over you. The stylish, wishful acoustic guitar a match for Charlie’s heartfelt vocals on what is one of the albums more contemplative moments. Another short pause on the journey, The Left Unsaid is two minutes of thought provoking music that leaves its mark on your mind as it passes through. For me, the highlight on this ever impressive piece of work is the breathtaking Sneak Attack. It’s classic progressive metal at heart but with a real contemporary edge to the delivery. Intellectual and impassioned at the same time, there’s real drama to the music and an almost theatrical delivery to Charlie’s vocal. There’s been a resurgence of keyboards in contemporary, melodic prog rock and the writing on this album just leaves room for plenty of atmosphere and plenty of keys! A stand out track on an album of imposing songs, the highlight is most definitely John’s stunning guitar solo towards the end that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The album finishes with the uplifting My Peace, a beautiful, soaring piece of music that brought a lump to my throat (and tears to my eyes but we will ignore that bit!) and just leaves a feeling of hope and expectation in your heart.

2024 has already been a bumper year for superb releases and Age of Distraction have just added another fine album to the mix. ‘A Game Of Whispers’ is a collection of mighty fine songs that define the contemporary progressive rock and melodic metal genre and is a dramatic and profound listen from beginning to end. My recommendation is you just go out and buy it!

Released 31st May, 2024.

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