As the Forest Field website states clearly “Forest Field is not a band. Forest Field is a project.” In the way that the famed Alan Parsons Project was able to use various and rotating musicians and performers over the “bands'” discography while always availing itself of its founders and creators Parsons and Eric Wolfson, so too the album Lonely Desert is the brainchild of Chinawhite guitarist Peter Cox. Cox plays all the instruments on this 9 track album while he is joined by Phil Vincent who very admirably handles the vocals. Lonely Desert is the fifth release from this Dutch project that bills itself as melodic rock, new age/ambient, and progressive. I wish I had heard of this musical endeavor earlier on as they are quite good and I really like this album. It is a bit of a concept album based loosely on Frank Herbert‘s DUNE, but the listener need not know that classic to enjoy the listening experience.
Before some track by track comments it needs be said that this not your “classical” prog of the early founding 70’s nor even the second wave iteration. There is more classic rock afoot here than Yes, Genesis, or Spock’s Beard. Forest Field is more of Thin Lizzy meets Judas Priest with Boston stirred in…infused with very tasty mellotron and synth additives. But that is not a bad thing as the music is too good to let restrictive descriptors keep ones ears shut.
The jacket art sure is prog friendly! The Blekkmark Design Studio provides a suitably Sci-Fi/Fantasy portrait in pleasing hues of purple, violet, and blue. 10/10 for the cover.
Track 1: Valley of Pain (7:10) This song has a neo prog feel, almost Frost* like. This has solid drumming (also by Cox) and a very catchy rock arrangement. There is also the first, of an album-full guitar solo by Cox. I like it. There is a familiar feeling to the melody. At 4:45 there is a down tempo change where the synths predominate. Then at 5:40 the chorus comes back. But it is catchy. 7/10
Track 2: Coriolis (7:01) Simple and clean guitar strumming/chording gets the song going. The repetitive but pleasant melody is progressively layered as the song continues, adding texture. At 2:50 the synths slow and become cutting and foreshadowing. The drums increase and the song picks up its steady rhythmic drive with some nice guitar underneath. Then the synths add some electronic keys which sparkle. The longer the track goes the more I liked it. It just gets fuller and more dynamic. This track is all instrumental. Then at 6:30 all music ceases and the electronic notes and beeps lead out. 8/10
Track 3: Doomed in the Desert (6:21) A slow piano opening is soon accompanied by the vocal; a plaintive ballad; very emotive; lyrics supplementing the story…single guitar picking up the melody…at 4:15 it starts to rock with drums, synths, and base. A tad of gravel in Vincent’s voice. Just solid. 7.5/10
Track 4: Alienation (stranger in me) (5:08) Synths, keys, guitar, drums & base…. Foot starts tapping immediately. Best song so far. I love the melody. This would make a great single in my prog universe! Great guitar solo. 10/10
Track 5: To Bits (3:01) Another beautifully arranged and mixed instro opening with guitar and bass playing off the synth…then the drums are added at the minute plus mark. This is more of a mood piece. 9/10
Track 6: Asleep (5:24) Asleep is anything but, as it starts off rocking…a great rhythmic opening…very nice rock tune with great vocals and nice poppy riffs (but in a good way)…This would be another Top 40 hit in my prog imagination. I enjoy the accessible sing-along chorus. Also, maybe my favorite track. More great guitar. 10/10
Track 7: Into the Light (5:25) A harder-edged more prog metal guitar opening…almost a space-rock feel cum Hawkwind (minus the “effects”)…but a chugging, racing hard rocker. Fun! 9.5/10
Track 8: Riding the Worm (3:27) The song title here is very DUNE-ish. The slow guitar opening, simple and direct; is lulling and relaxing. At 40 seconds synth vocalise joins in, and then, at 1:20 the drums and keys join, in a still slow and steady melody. The electric guitar at the 2 minute mark also joins in. Still a mid to slow tempo beautiful instrumenal piece. The pace picks up with added synth. This is a well-crafted gem and not at all what I was expecting with the title of the song being what it is. This is not so much a riding as a slow sailing. 8/10
Track 9: The Confrontation (5:05) A hard rock opening (shades of NWOBHM) with crunchy riffing, great harmonies on the vocals, and an infectious sing-along chorus. While not what one would consider “prog”…when at 3:10 the tempo slows and the keys come in with an extended instro section, along with mellotron, the song does morph a bit, till the toe-tapping chorus returns in 50 seconds or so. 8/10
After 9 tracks I was thoroughly enjoying this disc but still hoping for some “wibbly-wobbly” prog caricature sounds to cement it in my own, maybe too narrow view of the genre. The closing song does that!
Track 10: Fear (15:10) The guitar chords strummed slowly and majestically invoke a romantic past (neo-classical) with a very beautiful melody. At 2:18 the hard electric guitar, bass, keys, and drums bust in with a forceful driving sound, and again the vocals are big, Journey like almost. There’s a real 80’s feel, almost arena rock (not that that’s always a bad thing). The sing-along nature of this tune (along with most of the other songs) brings to mind Eddie Money, early Styx, Bon Jovi, and most rock with melody. At the 6:50 the guitar gets harder and darker and some nice interplay with the several sounds as well as the vocals put a prog patina on this middle section. The lyrics of being the “freemen” has a prog-foundational-theme firmly ingrained. The dark plodding of the beat contrasted by the light and hopeful sounding lyrics makes this song an anthem of resistance…the “keepers of the spice” will fight. Any 15-minute song has to be prog, I guess. A winning last track 9.5, or maybe 10/10. Just a big brassy sound up through 12:45 where everything drops out save for a synth orchestral swelling befitting a landscape pull-away shot and cue in a cinematic epic like Lord of The Rings. The ending brings to mind Robert Godfrey’s symphonic additions to Barclay James Harvest. A great ending to a great song and very strong album.
Kudos to Peter Cox (and Phil Vincent) for releasing music that just plain sounds good and brings a smile (and a bobbing head) to the listener. Prog enough for me. I recommend Lonely Desert by Forest Field.
The album can be previewed and purchased at Forest Field’s Bandcamp page: Forest Field: Lonely Way
Web site: Forest Field web site
Mellotron set to 11