Apart from the blatantly stereotypical header above, ‘Game Of Thrones’ isn’t the only strong namedropping connection to Yorkshire at the moment. Hailing from what was once dubbed the County of York, a new Prog band calling themselves THIS WINTER MACHINE has emerged in an area starved of such bands. When asked what the Prog scene was like locally, vocalist, AL WYNTER replied, “The short answer is that there isn’t really one. There are a couple of bands, and an organisation that puts on gigs but there is no scene to speak of. No dedicated venues or prog nights anywhere and its hard to get decent gigs playing original material.” That hasn’t at all deterred the band from playing and recording what was their debut album now with F2 Records titled ‘THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS.’
1. The Man Who Never Was (16:05) :
– a) Asleep
– b) Dreaming
– c) Snow
– d) Awake
2. The Wheel (9:28)
3. Lullaby (Interrupted) (4:53)
4. After Tomorrow Comes (7:58)
5. Fractured (10:26)
Total Time 48:50
There were a couple of lineup changes but for the sake of this album released in January 2017 we’ll go with Al Wynter (Vocals), Marcus Murray (drums), Mark Numan (keyboards and backing vocals), Gary Jevon (guitars), and Peter Priestley (Bass). I asked Al how the band got together. “Well I put an ad out,” he explains, “and Marcus and Mark, and a different bassist came and jammed and we got on okay. After a couple of rehearsals it was clear the bassist wouldn’t be able to commit and put in the required time so Pete, who I’ve known for many years, offered to step in. Then Jevo came on board and the album was written and recorded in a matter of weeks. We started writing from the first rehearsal. When Jevo left we advertised and Graham was a friend of Marks (keys player) and joined. Then Pete had the idea of having 2 guitarists so Scott came through the auditions and joined. And now here we are. ”
When asked about the origins of the band’s name, the vocalist acknowledges, “My surname is a play on the band name. The idea of a Winter Machine came from a daydream I had where an old style horse and plough pulled a Victorian kinda machine through a field changing the land from Autumn to Winter.” He went further into some of the song selections on this album and I asked him how personal the lyrics were on such tracks as, ‘After Tomorrow Comes’ and Fractured’ and especially ‘The Man Who Never Was’ (“Watching the seasons unfold from a safe place I know. A design never ending. Covering all of my thoughts in a blanket of snow That is gone by the morning“). Was it at all biographical in any way? “I’m usually telling a story in character,” Al added. “The songs are partly autobiographical to a degree I suppose, but its not really about me. I observe things then write about it. But I don’t like to explain my lyrics in detail, I think its better that people take from them what they want. All I will say is that it all means something, at least to me. I try not to use too many throwaway lines.” Al followed this up with: ” This Winter Machine existed before my stage name, Al Winter, and all tracks are group written to varying degrees. For instance ‘After Tomorrow Comes’ was almost complete and brought to the band by Mark. ‘The Man Who Never Was’ is a song I’d had for almost 10 years, but we all put our own stamp on them. They’re definitely group efforts. But on the new album we’re writing now pretty much everything is co written from the ground up. ”
The artwork on the album sleeve is very interesting to. Not sure if anyone else has noticed but the British have this deep fascination with telephone boxes! “The telephone box for me represents a vanishing British tradition,” Al explains. “It’s an iconic image that many associate with the UK but actually red telephone boxes are very rare and more likely to be seen in country villages. Also I liked the juxtaposition of the old and the 20th century. Those were my reason for including it in the art.” Every picture tells a story, and there is definitely one in there with the fox and hooded person, and the owl and the gears…
On a sadder note, Al advised me the artist for this album, Sandor Kwiatkowski passed away last month in Switzerland. If you listen to Clepsydra you’ll know his work on their album covers. Sandor also did the amazing art posters for the Night of the Prog Festival recently.
Early days yet but I did ask the Yorkshire vocalist how he felt things were tracking for the band. “We have a good and supportive label,” he reflected. “… not to mention building a solid and dedicated fan base. It would be nice to be moving faster but things are going in all the right directions so its hard to complain. What I think we need is a dedicated manager. A modern day Peter Grant to get us to that next level! But I think we have done okay for a band only together a year or so. Any ideas would be appreciated!
Al started his vocal career at a very young age sing in bands when he was just 15. “It was standard heavy rock of the day, kind of in the vein of Ozzy or Ratt or Van Halen. Very 80s haha..!” He went on to say into his relation with Prog, “I was at a friend’s house in my early teens and we were looking through his brothers albums and I liked the look of the sleeve for Rush – ‘Permanent Waves.’ So I looked at the lyrics and decided ‘Jacobs Ladder’ looked like a short song (only a couple of verses, what did I know!) and put it on the turntable and it blew me away. I’d never heard anything even remotely like that. From then on I was a fan, and to this day they’re still my favourite band.“
This included bands bands like Marillion and I asked him if it was it mainly listening to Geddy Lee and Fish that drew him into wanting to sing vocals?
“Not so much, no, although they have been an influence (especially Fish and Peart) on my lyrics,” Al points out. “I sang from an early age, and got involved with musical theatre. I’ve always listened to a wide range of singers. Ozzy was great for a while, and the great rock singers like Gillan and Rodgers and Dio definitely made me sit up and listen. But I’d say people like Hogarth or Gabriel have also inspired me, along with a lot of soul singers from the 60’s and 70’s and even some folk vocalists. If its good, I will try to take something from it. However, I think its important to try to sound like yourself. Too many desperate copyists about, in Rock and Prog in general.” And that’s one of the reasons I’m not going to take the liberty and compare this band to any other. I listened to the album a couple of time today through the speakers, up loud, and it rocks! The title four-part song ”The Man Who Never Was‘ has a good lead in with a piano playing in a room filled with folk that segues into a short instrumental, building with ominous tones, and opens up into an epic long track filled with vocals and a story worth listening to. Al’s got a voice made for Metal or Melodic Rock if he wishes to, but he’s doing just fine in Prog. I like his tones. Not hard, but not soft either. The second track, ‘The Wheel‘ opens up some mice bass work and with the drumming heralds some cruisey lead guitar which then moves into top gear with more melodic licks. it’s a track that builds on itself. ‘Lullaby‘ showcases more standout guitar rips. A favourite track of mine is ‘After Tomorrow Comes‘ which has radio play written all over it. The weaving of piano with vocal and interplay of guitar and other keys with drum bass emphasizes a beautiful power ballad type song with a touch of Yorkshire muscle behind it. The song also has a memorable chorus that hangs around long after the track has finished. The last track bookends a song longer than 10 minutes which starts off with a staccato melody on guitar and then a quick burst of synth that would even have Rick Wakeman tapping his toes to. This is ‘Fractured‘ and it’s a good song to end with. It starts quickly then softens but doesn’t take long to pick up speed and take you to the end. A song of many colours. I was expecting a somewhat bleak and darkened collection of tracks but nothing could be further from the truth. If the movie ‘Labyrinth’ needed a heavier soundtrack then this one would fit the bill perfectly. Hearing this makes you want to see the band perform these songs live. Al promises they ae looking into a video following a live performance. As to what’s next… “Our next concert is in Wakefield on 16th of September. After that we have gigs with bands like German proggers Crystal Palace in October and with rock legends Magnum in November. Then next year we have some dates with Martin Barre from Jethro Tull. We also have some great things to announce in the near future.”
This Winter Machine isn’t letting the dust settle though. “We are working on the follow up album,” Al reflects. “Which has the title of ‘A Tower Of Clocks.’ It’s a full blown concept album and much more dense and diverse than the debut. That’s coming on well and we are optimistic we can release it this year. I know our label would approve of that ha,ha…!”
Al advises you can buy their album at the usual online places such as Google Play, Amazon, iTunes etc
Or buy a hardcopy CD from http://www.progrock.co.uk/this-winter-machine-the-man-who-never-was-c2x23489539
Join Team Machine at www.facebook.com/thiswintermachine
Their website is www.thiswintermachine.com and check out their YouTube channel. Just search the band name.