Lifesigns, Altitude, 2021
Tracks: Altitude (15:17), Gregarious (4:34), Ivory Tower (7:45), Shoreline (7:40), Fortitude (10:08), Arkhangelsk (0:57), Last One Home (6:16), Altitude Reprise (1:43)
As the year quickly comes to a close, it’s about time I start to wrap up with some reviews of some of the many wonderful albums released this year. Longtime readers of Progarchy might remember our past coverage Lifesigns, as we talked about them a fair bit in our early days. I’m happy to say that their latest album Altitude is not to be missed.
There’s a strong Marillion influence on the record, which you won’t hear me complaining about. The bass is loud and distinct, and Dave Bainbridge’s crisp guitar solos grab your attention. The keyboards and organs create a Floydian atmosphere, and the whole package, together with John Young’s vocals, create a neoprog masterpiece. When the violin kicks in on the opening track, you realize this is a special record.
With the first song clocking in at 15 minutes in length, you know right from the get-go that this is going to be a prog album in every sense of the word. The song goes through varying movements, all of which I enjoy. I hear a strong hint of Steve Hackett peppered in one of the guitar solos, which made me smile. There’s a later part of the song where acoustic guitar – possibly a twelve string – starts playing behind some synths, creating a bit of a Genesis sound. But then it blends in electric violin, a dash of saxophone, more synth sounds, and it really draws many different aspects of prog and neoprog together.
While the opening track is more contemplative, the second song, “Gregarious,” picks up the pace with a bit of a Supertramp style. There is some good cultural critique in the lyrics:
The TV will tell you who’s the master.
Am I allowed to disagree?
“Ivory Tower,” impresses yet again with a familiar yet fresh sound. It’s strongly Marillionesque in melody and overall sound, but it isn’t a copycat at all. It’s just good music in that vein. There are strong elements of contemporary prog here too, with “Fortitude” reminding me of Steven Wilson’s solo work (his progressive stuff, not the pop albums).
The band goes full Floyd on “Last One Home.” Bainbridge’s long guitar solo is blisteringly brilliant, and it is backed perfectly with a Hammond organ, drums, and bass. This kind of guitar work should feature on every progressive rock album. The song closes out with some pleasant vocal harmonies that grow in a beautiful crescendo.
Altitude has impressed me more and more upon repeated listens. There are a lot of little things to pick up on throughout, such as the backing female vocals that pop up periodically. The album contains many nods to prog history, which will be sure to please many prog fans, but there’s so much more here to enjoy. The songs are well-written. The lead and backing vocals create a smooth and pleasant atmosphere, and Bainbridge’s guitar-work is worth the price of admission just by itself. Do yourself a favor and check Altitude out before the year ends.
List with links to international retailers selling Altitude: https://lifesignsmusic.co.uk/international-retailers