Without doubt, home recording revolutionized the music industry. Up and down the country, and indeed all over the whole world, musicians are writing and laying down tracks from the comfort of their own bedrooms, kitchens, sheds and wherever they can find some peace and an electrical socket or two.
No more need to go to expensive studios that potentially cost hundreds, maybe thousands, a day to use and with this financial freedom also comes artistic freedom as people create exactly what they want.
Andy Hughes understands this perfectly and with the fifteen tracks that make up ‘Journal…’ has woven a tapestry of writing and experimentation that covers a seven-year period where he delves into his heavier style of material.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqAevzcC-Kw&w=560&h=315]
From the excellent opener ‘Fire the Flames’ Goth meets NWOBHM bite onwards he displays some really interesting writing and excellent guitar work, stretching his wings and pushing himself as the story progresses. ‘Dead End Dolls’ adds some Manic Street Preachers angsty epic rock into the blender and ‘The Eternal Flight’ crosses elements of the prog wizardry of Rush with the Indie pop of bands like James and Embrace.
You’re hit by an absolute maelstrom with ‘Black Sky’, the track full of constantly shifting rhythms as it swirls around you like a technicolour sandstorm, it’s brilliant and bright, catching you totally off guard and with its ambition is one of the highlights of the album.
The title track unleashes more of Hughes prog rock side, flowing runs of the light passages injected with heavy guitars that at times soar high but then piledrive into you. Again, the fretwork is impressive and the arrangements constantly interesting, tracing the development of the material not just through the course of the album but sometimes in the songs themselves.
Influences like Rush and the Manics are subtly kept on sleeves but it’s the way these seemingly disparate elements are put together that on tracks like ‘Slaves to the Machine’ and ‘Viva La Rev’ it all just seems to work naturally.
Another highlight comes in the shape of ‘Memory Lane’, the emotional and wistful semi ballad that is filled with longing and the scent of decay and regret, the guitar solo epic. ‘Rise and Fall’ matches New Wave spikiness and a reggae cool while ‘Tribal Army’ has more than a touch of Smashing Pumpkins about it.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_Kpk8DWub8&w=560&h=315]
The atmospheric ‘The End of the World’ wraps things ups and it’s a suitably big musical statement, Hughes declaration that he’s here and looking ever forward. Whilst his unique vocal style may split opinion somewhat, the quality of the writing and performing cannot be denied and the more you listen to the album the more layers it reveals as you warm ever increasingly to it.
Both an intimate and ambitious record, you can hear the naked soul at its centre and surely, this is what all good music is about.
Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM