Eddie Lascu 4-Dec-2004 Moth Vellum

Much has been written about the influence of the biggest progressive rock bands on today’s artists that try to revive the genre. The argument has always been whether imitating the classics will actually give a chance of survival for the contemporary acts. And as always, the opinions are divided. Some say that stepping in the tracks of our forefathers is the key to succeed. Others will say that progressive rock must reinvent itself, bring something completely original and totally unheard of on the table if it wants to perpetuate its existence. Well, Moth Vellum is one band that will definitely fuel the debate without making any attempts to settle it. In fact, the music played by Moth Vellum is so well anchored in the past, yet so modern and interesting, that it may prove the debate futile. Yes, they take the median path, they agree with both sides.
Hailing from California, Moth Vellum started off in 2001 as the collaboration between Tom Lynham (keyboards) and Johannes Luley (guitars). Both were musicians with lots of experience, having toured in the '90s with big acts like The Who and Iggy Pop. The line-up was augmented to a quartet by the addition of Ryan Downe (bass guitars and vocals) and Matt Swindells (drums). They too have worked with more known musicians, such as Elton John and Matt Bisonette.
With plenty of bits and pieces that sound like excerpts from “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” or “Tales From Topographic Oceans”, the music is constructed around very solid instrumentation and the warm, Anderson-like vocals of Ryan Downe. Luley’s guitar sounds often times like that of Hackett or Howe, but there are plenty of other brilliant passages that keeps him an original in my book. The rhythmic section, including a take on the intro in the “Watcher of the Skies” and the surreal Moog and Mellotron soundscapes created by Lynham, a perfect fit on “The Revealing Science of God” will lead you to believe that Moth Vellum’s is just a mix between Yes and Genesis. That would be a very shallow label. The band is not a clone by any stretch of imagination. They acknowledge their influences alright, but create their own, unique sound. Six long, intricate and very well crafted songs, to be more precise.
Standing out is the excellent “Salvo”, the third and longest piece on the album. Two minutes into the song and Lynham launches into this absolutely demonic dance, a keyboard solo constructed over one of the heaviest percussion sections you heard in a while. It doesn’t matter that things get mellow shortly after, the first impression will resonate inside your brain for a long time to come. The draconic rhythms will come back to haunt you toward the end of the song, in a slight revision, but with identical power. “Against the Suns” includes a passage that may have been inspired from Steve Hillage’s “Fish Rising” – there, you have the proof that Moth Vellum is not a Yes-Genesis stew. Not counting the final “Against the Suns” reprise, “Walk It Off” is the last long track of the album. Somehow discordant from the relentless of the first four songs, this lavish tune includes pastoral passages and dreamy harmonies, more proof of the wide compositional range of this band.
Immaculate production, sleek sound, crystal-clear vocals, this album offers enough diversity to please even the most exigent listener. I sure hope they will not stop here, but will continue to evolve and release more albums along the same lines. Since is that time of the year, expect to see Moth Vellum on many “best-of 2008” lists.

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