Band: Not a Good Sign
Album: From a Distance
From a Distance is the latest record from Italian retroprog group Not a Good Sign. Fans may remember Not a Good Sign from their well-received debut record in 2013, but this time around the guys have changed their approach. While the hallmark 70’s rock organs and guitar tones heard on the debut are still present, From a Distance features shorter songs and melodies that are deliberately more contemporary than that of the previous album.
The album kicks off with “Wait for Me”, a five minute song that features an introductory display of blistering chops from the instrumentalists. After only a minute though, the instrumental gives way to a slower, more melancholic space where emotive vocals are left to carry the song. Eventually, the volume of the band begins to swell and coalesces in another powerful instrumental section, but the players never outstay their welcome. The song wraps up quickly and concisely, coming to a close before you could ever accuse of the band of trying to be showy.
The album is incredibly well sequenced, and features a variety of songs ranging from slower ballads to all-out rockers where virtuosity is on full display. In general, the mood of the album can be dark and haunting one moment, sentimental the next, and perhaps aggressive after that. Not once during my first couple spins of the 60 minute record did I ever feel bored, or like I knew what was in store next.
Also worth noting here are the guest instrumentalists, who provide a number of live instruments including a glockenspiel, vibraphone, and English horn. Whereas many other (and frankly more successful) progressive rock groups would be happy to substitute these instruments with synthesizer patches, Not a Good Sign seem to put a premium on authenticity, and it truly does breathe life into the album.
Sometimes the album feels lost in translation, and I encountered a few strange lyrics and not-so-conscientiously titled tracks along the way. But, in a genre that is often accused of gratuitousness and naval gazing, Not a Good Sign have managed to borrow the aesthetics of the 70s while still offering something that appeals to the low attention spans of the modern age. Their English might not be perfect, but it’s obvious that Not a Good Sign have put a lot of thought into their new record. The album may lack any tracks that truly stand out as exceptional, but the band have picked a direction and executed it very well. From that perspective, it’s hard to consider From a Distance anything but a glowing success.
Joe’s Grade: B+