Prog renaissance man John Mitchell – you may know him best from his work with It Bites – returns with the second installment of his Lonely Robot project, and, although there’s little here that will lure the non-affiliated music fan, there’s plenty to enjoy if solid, at times guitar-heavy prog rock is part of your musical appreciation palette.
Although Mitchell says that this isn’t a concept album, The Big Dream is the second part of a projected trilogy built around the character of The Astronaut; however there’s no need to turn away now if you haven’t heard the first part (2015’s Please Come Home), as this album stands perfectly well as a work on its own. Mitchell has created a woozy musical otherworld here (much of the material in the first half of the record flows together, coalescing into an amorphous whole meaning that if you’re not concentrating you’ll have no idea what track you’re actually listening to), making this an ideal musical accompaniment to Sunday afternoon mooching around the house.
There are standouts; Symbolic is more urgent, propelled forward by some nice drumming from Craig Blundell and a fine guitar solo from Mitchell, whilst the opening keyboard riff to False Lights has a light, almost comedic note to it that brightens the somnolent air when it flits into your consciousness.
The balladic The Divine Art of Being is probably the track that will appeal to most non-Mitchell acolytes; Starting off a little like UK proggists Tangent before blossoming into the sort of aching, yearning track that post-Fish Marillion have made their own, it’s a nice piece of eighties-styled big rock, replete with crashing chorus powerchords and a refrain that’ll tug at the heartstrings and it’s the track that stands the strongest chance of bringing Lonely Robot to a wider audience.
At the end of the day, of course, this type of music sadly only has a finite appeal, and no matter how good it is its crossover attraction to fans of bands across the heavy music spectrum from Crazy Lixx to Gorgoroth is limited. Fans of superior, emotionally charged guitar playing might be drawn in by Mitchell’s always impressive soloing – His work on the title track is exemplary – but the sad fact remains that the only people really going to go for this already have the complete works of IQ in their collection. Which is a great shame, as it deserves as wide an audience as possible – so go on, take a chance… you won’t regret it.
Lonely Robot’s The Big Dream will be released by InsideOut Music on April 28th.