“With the aim to make progressive music accessible to the masses and not content to follow any musical trends, Section IV fuse melodic hooks, rich soundscapes and musical dexterity to create music that defies genres.”
So says the band’s bandcamp page anyway…..
To be honest, I’d never heard of Norwich based Section IV until a message arrived at Progradar from the band’s manager Dean Shepherd:
Section IV have released their début album “Superhuman” Should you want a physical copy of Superhuman I would be happy to send you one, if you could furnish me with an address to send it to.”
Dean also furnished a link to the band’s website which, while being sparsely populated with information, intrigued me enough, especially the striking artwork, to reply in the affirmative.
It was difficult to glean anything much from the band’s online presence but I figured out they’re from Norwich (yes, well done to me, I know!) and Section IV consist of Robben Harrop (guitar), Sam Linay (vocals), Stuart Robertson (drums), Richard Lockett (keyboards) and Nicko J Ruddock (bass).
Listening to the music is a whole different proposition, there’s a whole bundle of influences fighting for attention over the ever present rock base. Like most good albums, it takes two or three listens to unveil the inner delights so, after quite a few more plays, I’m ready to give you my considered opinion…
This album is book-ended by two longer tracks, the first being the title track Superhuman and this is one with full-on neo-prog tendencies. Like a leap back in time to the 80’s and early 90’s, all the pointers are present and correct. Sepia tinged keyboards and jangly guitars are the mainstay and everything is kept cohesive by the slightly metallic drum sound. Sam’s vocal is strong and powerful and, while everything is stylish and professional, it doesn’t quite put its head above the parapet as being something better than what you’ve heard before.
The next two tracks, Out Of The Dark and In Danger has a more definitive AOR feel to them and I get the feeling that this melodic and catchy style is where the band truly sit, they are masters at it. Wistful and endearing, the music is classy, polished and, basically, really good. The vocals fit perfectly with the sound and I find myself being drawn in, lulled by the quality on offer, Robben Harrop’s impressive guitar work really starting to shine as well. Inside is one of the stand out tracks with some polished acoustic guitar work and superbly harmonised vocals. It is a pared back little gem.
The bombast returns with the opening to So Far Away, all pounding drums and staccato guitar. A feeling of apprehension is created by the voices running underneath the music. This track actually sticks one toe firmly in the progressive pool and does it exceedingly well to give an almost post apocalyptic feel but doesn’t quite go the whole hog. The rather catchy chorus has its roots firmly in hard rock and AOR. Idwtstwt is an enjoyable anomaly in that it even treads the boards as a heavy metal track with its punishing opening riff before turning the flame down a bit to hover on the edge of hard rock heaven and heavy metal hell in quite an innovative manner, the interplay between the guitar and keyboards just manages to avoid being cheesy. That hard rock/AOR vibe returns with Guiding Light, another track that, while being entirely palatable, is also a bit generic. I even feel a hint of 80’s metal joining the fray on tracks such as Take You Down, if brought up to date for the twenty-first century. The keyboards are nicely done, the riffing is smart and perceptive and Sam has one of those unique and memorable voices that stays with you, especially on the uplifting chorus.
So, to the final track on the album and a return to the neo-prog feel of the equally extensive opener. Exile, however, does seem to take its progressiveness just that much further and, as such, makes itself the stand out track on the album. To me, it feels like the band have, basically, decided to forget any formulas and just lay down what they’re good at. The sweeping opening is full of grandeur before a lone piano takes over, quite heartfelt, to lead into the rest of this sixteen minute epic musical journey. Uplifting and dynamic, it is worth the entrance fee alone. It is quite cinematic in scale and stops you in your tracks, a heavyweight slice of pomp and circumstance.
So, to my ears, Section IV has delivered a highly competent and eminently likeable album in ‘Superhuman’. However, with tracks like Inside and, especially, Exile, they show they have the capability to produce something exciting and different to the norm and, to me, they should be exploring that side of their music further.
Released 31st March 2015