| Sound

Halo Blind : Occupying Forces

Memorable but unconventional melodies, and some great use of atmospheric instrumental passages in place of conventional solos

Occupying Forces is the second album from the progressive rock project led by singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Chris Johnson.

It follows on from The Fabric, released under the band name “Parade” before a heavily-promoted girl band with the same name forced a name change. (That girl band rapidly crashed and burned after their album flopped, but that’s another story.) Still, “Halo Blind” is a far better name.

not too dense or twiddly

to frighten off indie fans, but

it’s still got enough depth for all

but the most narrow-minded

of prog fans

It’s also a rather different band from the lineup that recorded The Fabric, although four out of the five from Halo Blind’s last live appearances in 2011 are still on board, Gavin Griffiths on drums, Stu Fletcher on bass, Stuart Farell on lead guitar and of course Chris himself, with new recruit, multi-instrumentalist Andy Knights, completing the band.

Indie-rock guitars and progressive rock atmospherics

It’s got a similar combination of indie-rock guitars and progressive rock atmospherics. But while The Fabric was by Chris’s own admission a collection of songs originally written with different projects in mind,  in contrast Occupying Forces has a far more coherent feel as an album.

A picture of Halo Blind
One highlight is the sequence of songs on the first half of the album “Mirage”, “Saturate”, “Torrential” and “Downpour”: shimmering summery pop numbers with a hint of darkness and melancholy that flow into one another to build into something more than the sum of their parts.

Breathtaking beauty

The whole thing shows Chris Johnson’s ear for memorable but unconventional melodies, and some great use of atmospheric instrumental passages in place of conventional solos. The final song of that sequence in particular is a thing of breathtaking beauty.

After the short jazz instrumental “The End of the First Side” featuring Jonny Enright’s trombone, the second half gets more eclectic. “Brain Dog” combines dance rhythms with some Tom Morello-style guitars. It continues with the stripped-down balled “The Puppet” with just piano and Jennifer Chubb’s cello; the burbling electronica of “Analogue”; and ending with the soaring ballads “Coma” and “Control”.

The way this record combines elements of progressive rock and indie-rock ought to appeal a broad audience. There are echoes of Anathema, Pineapple Thief, mid-period Radiohead and late-period Marillion. It’s not too dense or twiddly to frighten off indie fans, but it’s still got enough depth for all but the most narrow-minded of prog fans.

It’s been a long wait for this album; The Fabric came out as long ago as 2009. But an album of this quality is well worth the wait.

Available from 7th April

Halo Blind

 

 

Comments are closed.

Our weekly newsletter

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.