John Mitchell is a well-known figure in the British progressive rock world, lead guitarist of both Arena and Frost*, and frontman for the current incarnation of 80s veterans It Bites.
Now, after more than a decade as a member of multiple bands at the same time, he’s finally launched a solo project, Lonely Robot.
John Mitchell plays the majority of instruments himself (aside from drums by Craig Blundell). Guest musicians include Mitchell’s Frost* bandmate Jem Godfrey on keys, and Marillion frontman Steve Hogarth, who finds employment on piano on a couple of songs. Legendary virtuoso Nick Beggs also makes an appearance on bass and Chapman Stick. Likewise, Mitchell handles the majority of the vocals himself, although he’s joined by guests (including former Mostly Autumn singer Heather Findlay, Touchstone’s Kim Seviour and Go West’s Peter Cox). Finally, voice actor Lee Ingleby provides background narration right across the record.
The end result is a varied but hugely impressive album. It goes from dense guitar-heavy industrial prog-metal to gorgeous ballads to uptempo 80s-style pop-rock, with imaginative arrangements that frequently veer off in unexpected directions. There is plenty of fluid lead guitar, but this is an album about songcraft and atmospherics rather than a guitar-chops record, and Mitchell keeps the solos short and to the point. It’s all given the sort of clear and crisp production we’ve come to expect from anything John Mitchell is involved with.
Highlights include the guitar-shredding instrumental opener “Airlock; the beautiful duet with Heather Findlay, “Why Do We Say”; the ambitious and kaleidoscopic title track; the somewhat Tangerine Dream-like “Are We Copies”, and the soaring ballad “Humans Being” which features a guitar solo from Nik Kershaw. But this is one of those albums that doesn’t have any filler; every song has something to commend it.
While there are certainly echoes of It Bites and of Frost*, this record is its own thing, and despite the variety it hangs together very well as a coherent musical whole. The various guest artists all enhance the record without stealing the show, and the end result is the first essential record of 2015 from the British progressive rock scene.
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