This Winter Machine - The Clockwork Man

Kev Rowland

Although this is a band, and not a project, these guys have had some issue with continuity of line-up over the years, and this has continued through to their fourth album. After 2019’s excellent ‘A Tower of Clocks’ there was a mass departure, leaving singer Al Winter to bring together a brand-new group plus guests for 2021’s ‘Kites’, which for some strange reason I never heard. Now we are back with their most recent release, and this time apart from Al the only musicians retained are the rhythm section of Dave Close (bass) and Alan Wilson (drums) with new members in the shape of John Cook (guitars) and Leigh Perkins (keyboards, whistles, backing vocals) plus two guests contributing on one track each.

Given the turmoil in the ranks one might expect the quality to suffer, but that is not the case as yet again we have a really enjoyable neo prog release which has a lot going for it the first time it is played, with hidden depths becoming apparent after repeated plays. It is a concept release, based on dystopia and steampunk, and Al obviously has a very clear idea on what he wants to achieve, even stepping aside on “Change” for Andre Saint to guest on lead vocals on the heavier track as it is obviously what he felt that song needed. This is very much neo prog, but it has been polished and crafted for the modern age so there are elements of symphonic and even crossover in what is being presented, which means that people who are fans of commercial melodic rock will also get a lot out of this.

The last time I reviewed This Winter Machine I said they contained obvious elements of early Pallas and Marillion, combined with some Pendragon, Galahad and Grey Lady Down, and I still believe that is the case even with a total change in personnel apart from Al, yet here it is polished to a high degree. Hopefully they will find more continuity in the future, as I note they are again looking for a guitarist, as if they can deliver music as strong as this with the line-up in turmoil what is going to happen when they are stable? Yet another solidly enjoyable release.

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